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Legitimate Health Care Escapes Trans Individuals in Zimbabwe

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This story was originally published by Global Press Journal.Ras grew up living like a girl despite never feeling like one. He was raised in a religious family in a small town in Zimbabwe and assigned female at birth.

Today, at 36, he uses a binder to achieve a flat chest.“I hate my breasts,” he says, asking to be identified by his nickname due to fear of repercussions. “They are a reminder of the body I am trapped in.”In the absence of legal protections for gender and sexual minorities, most transgender Zimbabweans are unable to access gender-affirming services — critical to the well-being of trans people — with safety or ease.

Surgery, for instance, is not an option for Ras. He also can’t simply walk into a pharmacy or medical facility and obtain the testosterone he needs in order for his body to transition.“We buy hormones from the black market — what we call ‘the streets,’” he says.According to a 2019 report from Zimbabwe’s National AIDS Council, trans individuals are often denied gender-affirming interventions, such as hormones and surgeries, under the belief that these are “cosmetic, medically unnecessary or even the expression of a mental disorder.” Where interventions are offered, the report goes on to say, “such services are prohibitively expensive and are often not covered under national or private health insurance schemes.”Many people find themselves with one of two options: travel to neighboring Botswana or South Africa, where procuring hormones is easier because of laws that protect trans rights, or resort to scouring the local black market.

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