After coming out as a transgender man, Ray researched hormone therapy and found a physician and friend in Dr. Robert Pitts of the Pride Health Center at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue.
A hospital might sound like an unusual place to spend a birthday, but for Ray Lopez, it was the perfect place to celebrate. On the day he turned 18, Lopez began gender-affirming hormone therapy at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue after years of suffering from gender dysphoria.
Lopez, who has lived in the Lower East Side his whole life, first began struggling with his identity in middle school. For a while, he had questioned his sexuality but hadn’t thought much about his gender until watching a YouTube video.
“I came across somebody who was coming out and they were explaining how they felt, and how they acted, and how this would really be the real them,” said Lopez. “I thought about it and it all connected, it all made sense, it felt right, and it felt like somebody actually understood me.”
Lopez, who was 12 at the time, first came out to his guidance counselor as a transgender man and eventually told his mother, Patricia Velasquez, who has been supportive. At the same time, Lopez began researching his options and eventually learned about hormone therapy. He repeatedly asked his mother for six years if he could start treatment. When he turned 18, she agreed.
“It took me a while,” Velasquez said. “I came to terms with it and asked myself ‘what’s the best gift I can give to my child? I have to give this gift to him.’”
His mother surprised him by scheduling an appointment to begin hormone therapy at Bellevue, which had been recommended by Lopez’s therapist. Once there, they met Dr. Robert Pitts, Medical Director at the hospital’s Pride Health Center. Lopez’s dad Raul Diaz, who lives in another state, joined virtually to be there for the beginning of his son’s journey.
“Dr. Pitts has been really sweet and helpful and he makes me feel very comfortable,” said Lopez. “It’s been easier than I thought it would be.”
Since 2018 when Bellevue’s Pride Health Center opened, Dr. Pitts has helped dozens of patients, like Ray, searching for gender-affirming care.
“Sometimes the true meaning of gender-affirming care isn’t recognized and Ray really exemplifies how important hormone therapy and using the appropriate pronouns is so critical,” said Dr. Pitts. “It’s important to have a safe space like the Pride Health Center where someone, regardless of their sexuality and regardless of their gender, can access comprehensive affirming care.”
NYC Health + Hospitals has seven Pride Health Centers across the city where LGBTQ+ New Yorkers can receive affirming health care. Providers in these centers have received extensive training to provide culturally responsive care and answer all patient questions in a safe and welcoming environment.
Dr. Pitts began treatment with Lopez the same way he does with every patient, by understanding Lopez’s goals, informing him of potential risks, and explaining what changes to expect, such as differences to body hair distribution, fat distribution, and a lowered voice. This discussion ends with both the patient and provider signing an informed consent document, which is later uploaded to the patient’s medical record.
After Lopez signed informed consent during that first appointment, Dr. Pitts started him on testosterone . Lopez learned how to measure out testosterone and now administers treatment from home every two weeks. Providers are available for questions when needed by phone or through MyChart. “I am so beyond happy. I’m less nervous to talk and I like to actually show my face more because I actually have a mustache,” said Lopez. “The experience at Bellevue was fast and easy and finally showed me and my mom it really isn’t that hard.”
NYC Health + Hospitals is committed to empowering LGBTQ+ New Yorkers to live the healthiest life possible. Our health system provides responsive, compassionate, and respectful care in a welcoming environment. Learn more about our LGBTQ health services and six Pride Health Centers here.
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