Evan Saavedra started his gender transition journey a few years ago. Not one gender transition journey is the same and each person has their own path – some may not feel the need for medical intervention, some may use a mix or hormones and/or surgery options available to them.
“When I realized I was transgender and needed to transition, knowing the physical, mental and spiritual journey ahead of me was overwhelming and I avoided it for many years,” says Evan. “Eventually, I knew that I needed, and deserved, to feel whole and happy. So, I took the leap of faith and set out on my journey, knowing not everyone would be continue to be by my side and I was ok with that.”
Before Evan became a patient at the LGBTQ Clinic, run by the Family Medicine Residency Program at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center, he knew that he wanted to get the best surgeon available for top surgery – also referred to medically, as a double mastectomy. He commuted all the way to San Francisco to ensure he had a surgeon qualified medically and supportively for a successful chest reconstruction outcome.
The surgery went well, and Evan travelled back to his home in Long Beach. It was at this time during his transition journey that he knew he needed more support. At first, Evan couldn’t find a physician office in his community to help with his post-operation care that was well versed in gender transition, even after his numerous calls and research.
For members of the LGBTQ+ community, medical care often feels limited or unavailable. From lack of insurance coverage, to medical professionals not receiving adequate training in gender affirming care, to an office staff that may lack education or that have personal stigma attachments, many from the LGBTQ+ community feel isolated in their own healthcare. As a result, many from the LGBTQ+ community avoid medical care, unless there is an urgent medical need.
Then he came across the LGBTQ Clinic, under the leadership of Dr. Odrin Castillo, who also took on Evan’s care. Evan scheduled a consultation with Dr. Castillo and immediately felt accepted, understood and most importantly, confident. Dr. Castillo and his team knew how to manage the drainage of Evan’s top surgery – this meant Evan didn’t have to resort to losing time and money traveling back to San Francisco. He had found his new medical home.
“I have to admit, I was very nervous at first, and not to mention vulnerable,” says Evan. “I had just had top surgery and was feeling a bit depressed because there was a minor complication. But Dr. Castillo and the amazing staff immediately made me feel comfortable and happy. It truly felt like home in my first clinic visit – I knew I would be cared for in a way that I never had before and it brought so much peace to me. I was able to heal more comfortably without the extra stress thanks to Dr. Castillo and the team. It truly takes a village, and the village at Long Beach Medical Center is absolutely amazing and loving. I have never felt more joy being in a doctor’s office.”
The LGBTQ Clinic continues to see Evan throughout his gender transition journey. The Clinic helps patients manage hormone treatments, consults on surgery, mental health voice coaching and refers to other resources in the community that can benefit these patients. They can help all members of the LGBTQ+ community set their health goals to keep them coming back and form a trusted relationship between their health and their healthcare providers.
“Our team is not afraid to admit and confront the medical injustices in the LGBTQ+ community,” says Odrin Castillo, D.O., director of engagement, community outreach and diversity, Family Medicine Residency Program, Long Beach Medical Center. “We want to improve the health and well-being of this community, and one of the most important ways to start that is education. That’s why each resident does a rotation in the LGBTQ Clinic, so they are better equipped to handle this patient population when they open their future practice one day or treat them in a hospital. A lot of education and a lot of empathy and support, that is what is needed for the foundation of making a great medical doctor.”
Evan couldn’t agree more and even once the transition journey is concluded will still feel confident knowing that any medical issue that could arise, he can call the clinic and they will help guide him.
“I’m so proud that my community offers a service like this,” says Evan. It is extremely important, and I hope others know that it is safe, even joyful, to come to a place like this for their care and medical needs.”