Sometimes the journey toward better health must begin at the beginning—with an actual acknowledgement that there's a problem, and a sense of self-worth strong enough to allow a person reach out for help. Just ask "Greg," a transgender man who endured pelvic pain for years.
"My body was, for me, this thing that I fed, and got it in a car, and drove places, and it did the work I wanted it to do," Greg said. "Because I spent so much of my life feeling betrayed by it, it was just this thing I didn't want to pay attention to."
That all changed when he met Hannah Schoonover, PT, DPT.
Now available on Move Forward Radio: a conversation with Greg and Schoonover, the physical therapist (PT) who helped Greg see his body—and his connection to it—in a new way. The podcast is a must-listen for anyone seeking a better understanding of not just the challenges faced by the transgender population, but the importance of providers honoring the individual stories every patient brings to the clinic.
The episode, hosted by PT in Motion magazine associate editor Eric Ries, follows Greg's initial reluctance to seek treatment for pelvic pain, his tentative first steps with Schoonover, and, finally, the development of a strong therapeutic alliance that brought relief—and helped Greg embrace a body he once viewed with disdain. Schoonover and Greg talk about the ways in which pelvic floor physical therapy can address pain, but they also discuss the obstacles to care that can arise when providers see patients simply as a collection of symptoms.
Schoonover believes that health care providers need to understand that trauma plays a particularly powerful role among individuals who are transgender—and that this can deter them from seeking care.
"Their experience is going to be different," Schoonover tells Ries. "There's going to be more sexual assault, there's going to be more violence, there's going to be more discrimination, more bias." That understanding is at the heart of Schoonover's Washington, DC, clinic, Body Connect and Wellness, which specializes in physical therapy for the transgender community. The clinic's baseline is that "all bodies are good bodies, and we're going to make sure that all bodies feel the way they're supposed to feel," she explains.
It's a philosophy that has made a difference in Greg's life.
"I'm feeling more open, I'm feeling more confident in my body," Greg says in the podcast. "We carry around emotional pain and we don't think it affects our bodies, but it does."
Move Forward Radio is hosted at MoveForwardPT.com, APTA's official consumer information website, and can be streamed online or downloaded as a podcast via iTunes, Google Play, or Spotify.