Swope Health has a long history of providing care to communities that have traditionally been medically under-served. From our founding 50 years ago to today, the Swope Health team has always offered health care and support for members of our community in need.
That commitment to care extends to the LGBTQ+ community – people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning. Swope Health stands ready to meet your healthcare needs, from supportive counseling and behavioral health skills to gender-affirming hormone therapy.
Swope Health’s Dr. Ryan Stokes specializes in gender-affirming hormone therapy. His interest in transgender health care started with his medical training at Truman Medical Center, where he trained with a plastic surgeon who specialized in gender-affirming surgery.
Dr. Stokes sees patients with gender dysphoria – the deep-seated discontent that appears when a person’s identity does not match the gender of the body. An example is a person who identifies and feels male but has a female body, or vice versa. Gender dysphoria does not go away and can lead to depression, anxiety and other illnesses.
Gender dysphoria affects people in different ways, according to the American Psychiatry Association. Some people may want to be present themselves with the gender they choose, and others may seek to medically transition (through hormone treatment or sex-change surgery) to the gender they identify with.
In these treatments, the goal is move a patient toward the ability to live comfortably as their true self.
“I love sharing in the moment when a patient hits their target comfort level, where they are able to feel their authentic self fully,” Dr. Stokes said.
He also recognizes the difficulty of the journey.
“The transgender community is definitely marginalized. It can be difficult to find care. With the recent developments of transgender healthcare protections being revoked, they can be actively turned away for being a transgender patient,” he said. “As a person of color, I know how difficult it can be to face discriminations like these.”
Dr. Stokes supports his patients on their gender-affirming health journey. He checks in with patients on hormone therapy frequently to ensure they are adapting well to medication changes, and watches for side effects. He also helps patients navigate their health insurance and payment systems and offers support to help patients be emotionally and mentally comfortable with the changes they experience.
“This takes a holistic approach, to make sure that the patient is ready in mind and body to fully transition,” he said. It can take time for patients to fully inhabit their new gender presentation, especially if the experience has been traumatic.
Whenever Dr. Stokes meets a new patient he proactively makes sure that he uses the preferred pronouns of his patients. A typical introduction is: “Hi, I’m Dr. Stokes, I am a cisgendered male. What pronouns do you prefer?”
This attention to respectful treatment of the LGBTQ+ community also has been the topic of training programs for Swope Health associates, featuring Rae Bowerman, a consultant and trainer with Common Threads. Part of Bowerman’s program with Swope Health associates includes a discussion of the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity, using materials from The Trevor Project, a non-profit organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ+ people under age 25.
Bowerman, who is completing a graduate school internship with The Transgender Institute, emphasizes the importance of using correct terms and pronouns as a sign of respect and an acknowledgement of human dignity. Dr. Stokes agrees and recognizes that the choice of language can make his patients more comfortable.
“My hope is that eventually the health care system will be a safer and more inviting environment for LGBTQ+ patients,” he said. “I want it to be a safe and welcoming visit when they see me. I have the privilege to be there with them at their best, to see when they get to fully realize their true selves, and I want to be with them at their worst, to support and care for them when they face struggles related to forming who they truly are.”
- 5 Trans Facts, from Trans Student Educational Resources
- The Spectrum — a poster showing the ranges of sexuality and gender identity, from The Trevor Project
- Gender Pronouns chart, from Trans Student Educational Resources
If you are experiencing gender dysphoria, there’s a safe place for you at Swope Health. Call 816-923-5800 to schedule a medical or counseling appointment. Telehealth options may be available.