On Meds

Transgender Man Denied Proper Diagnosis, Care For Breast Cancer

56-year-old transgendered New Yorker Jay Kallio has a list of medical complications including kidney failure and rheumatoid arthritis, but his breast cancer led to even more complications when discrimination and ignorance exacerbated his condition.

Kallio transitioned six years ago, though he’s never undergone gender-reassignment surgery—opting instead for just hormone treatments. Tragically, when he tested positive for breast cancer, the attending surgeon was so taken aback he didn’t tell Kallio about the biopsy results.

“I think the surgeon had a complex feeling of moral objection. A certain type of judgment and suspicion was made,” Kallio told ABC News. “He was an experienced surgeon and I needed the benefit of his opinion. He didn’t know what to call me… and he had trouble with my transgender status. It was very overt, but at least he had the forthrightness to talk about it.”

By the time Kallio was informed of his cancer—accidentally by a lab technician who had called inquiring about his diagnosis—and finally found a doctor willing to treat him, Kallio’s cancer had progressed beyond the possibility of chemotherapy.

Later, Kallio encountered a hostile oncologist who refused to advise him on treatment. Though the doctor inevitably apologized, he claimed “I don’t think it interfered with the quality of your care.”

That Kallio considered foregoing medical treatment alltogether, was forced into an HMO that didn’t accept his oncologist, has to find a new doctor willing to treat him—and to this day is still not sure whether the cancer is in remission—is proof otherwise.

Unfortunately, this type of discrimination is frightfully commonplace: According to a National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) survey, one in five trans people have been denied medical care from doctors, clinics, hospitals and ambulance drivers. Under the Affordable Care Act, however, discrimination against transgender and LGBT patients is illegal in federally funded healthcare programs.

“Now, if a patient divulges he or she is transgender, if the doctor consistently mixes the genders or misnames someone or treats anybody in unkind ways, [the patient] has recourse to file complaints,” NCTE spokesperson Vincent Paolo Villano said.

This comes as a relief to Kallio, who hopes other transgender folks don’t have to go through what he did:  “I am medically savvy with a medical background, [am] white and speak English,” he said. “If I have every advantage [and was still discriminated against], it doesn’t bode well for other people.”

Photo: Jay Kallio

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  • akn

    I have known Jay for more than a year now through volunteering with SAGE (Service and Advocacy for GLBT Elders). He is an inspiring and incredibly knowledgeable advocate for greater awareness of LGBT (and in particular, transgender) issues among the medical community, where there is still a shocking lack of sensitivity — even in places like New York City. Kudos to Jay for bringing national attention to the issue!

  • Samwise

    That is horrifying. Also, I was under the impression that men could get breast cancer too. Yet somehow I doubt this sort of thing happens to cis men.

  • Phil

    Yes, cis men can get breast cancer. Actor Richard Roundtree is one who did. There’s no excuse for the appalling treatment Kallio received.

  • Ralph

    I hope he sues the hell out of those bigoted quacks!

  • GreatGatsby2011

    @Samwise: Then you would be wrong.

    The federally-funded Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Program offers no-cost breast cancer treatment to qualifying women suffering from breast cancer, but not men. Some states have added additional state funding to include men suffering from breast cancer as well, but not all states. (I suppose the difference is some states base policy on fact while others base policy on rhetoric. Or perhaps some states just don’t have the money to fill in the extremely sexist gap left by the federal government.)

    Anyway, while I’m sure it’s true that trans individuals experience medical discrimination on a regular basis (which I find abhorrent), they by no means corner the discrimination market.

  • Will

    I am sorry for this person but this has nothing to do with gay people. Stop equating gay and lesbian people with “transgenders.”

  • Jabaroo

    @Will: Nor sure where you got that from, no one said anything like that.

    Shame on the doctors, no one diserves to be treated so like that. Hope he gets the help he needs.

  • Howard

    @Will: Are you really unaware what the T in LGBT stands for? Pitiful

  • Hyhybt

    The focus some people put into encouraging and enforcing divisions is sad.

  • JAW

    This is sad and Bad… Men Women and Trans all can get Breast cancer… the Dr is an Ahole and should pay out the ass

  • ChrisSF

    :( This is sad I hope he can get treatment.

  • Drea

    That is abhorrent. I hope he winds up with better health and treatment in the future.

    @Will: Interestingly enough, the banner at the top of the page when I read this article featured another article about today being Whitney Houston’s birthday. But then I suppose that’s more relevant to being queer than a case of transgender discrimination which could lead to the victim’s death.

  • Will

    @Howard: The only thing that is pitiful is the concept of “LGBT.” It is a sham. Gay people are not the same as trans people. They are different groups being forced to pretend that they are one. So no, this story does not concern gay people just because it involves a so-called transman.

  • Felix

    All of those hormones can’t be good for the female body.

  • Daath

    @will, I get that you are not too fond of Trans people, however you should understand that there are quite many BLG people who are gender non-stereotypical as well, and that BLG persons get discriminated against pretty much for the same reasons that trans persons do. That being said, educate yourself, Stop making idiot comments please.

  • Samwise

    @GreatGatsby2011: Okay, wow. My mind is now officially blown. What is the point of a policy like that?! Cancer is cancer. A patient is a patient. What is wrong with the world?

  • Will

    @Daath: I am fond of trans people, but I resent being redefined into some fake “community” with trans people. And I am not alone. LGBT is causing a lot of hostility and resentment. People don’t like lies and LGBT is a lie.

    And yes, some LGB people are trans. But LGB people are everything. There are LGB Mormons but that doesn’t mean that gays are one “people” with Mormons.

  • Jabaroo

    @Will: The hostility and resentment that you’re talking about comes only from people like you, no one else.

  • Jay Kallio

    Thanks for the kind words many of you offered. Like many trans people of my generation, I did not transition until late in life, in my case, 50 years old. Before that I was considered by the world to be a lesbian, came out at 11 in my family, and at 15 at my high school and to the public, and have been an ?LGBT activist all my life. I’ve been beaten by the KKK as a lesbian, fired from jobs for my LGBT activism after being interviewed by media at LGBT demonstrations and civil disobedience, told not to return to my college after they found out I was LGBT after my first year there, fought for almost 40 years now for the legal rights of all LGBTQ people, and as I went through transition I have been chased and threatened with violence by people thinking I was a transwoman, and later, gay man, been called “faggot” more times than anyone cares to know about, denied health care as a transman, and faced the crap that is leveled at every person represented by the “LGBT” acronym. I have been taken for every letter in it. Frankly, I defy anyone in this community to tell me I don’t belong. What is the point of that divisiveness?

  • Joanna Hill

    I think it is time to charge this surgeon with murder.

  • Solly

    @Jabaroo: Sorry, but he’s right. There is hostility and it isn’t just from him. I am not LGBT and do not appreciate anyone labeling me as such. I have no conflict or issue with my gender identity so please do not lump me in with people who do.

  • JAW


    So if you are not Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual or Transgender…

    What are you… and what label have you been given that you do not appreciate?

    What hostility have you been shown and by whom?

    I am not trying to be a smartass… just not sure what you mean.

  • Solly

    I am gay. My problem is with lumping LGB people, with a discrete group of people who are not defined by sexual orientation and who are mostly heterosexual. It is wrong for them to be lumped with us and it is wrong for us to be lumped with them. This was a dishonest move made just a few years ago for political reasons, and it hurts both groups. Of course, LGBs and Ts can and should be friends, but we aren’t the one “people” and it is a lie to suggest that we are.

  • Daath1

    @Solly: You really do need to educate yourself! Consider the Stonewall Riots…Who was it started by? Now consider that the lgb people have been throwing Trans people under the bus ever since those riots, and are largely responsible for the political, and religious quagmire that we are in as a people. (trans). What is sexuality? Only you can define that for yourself, however consider that sexuality, and gender exist on a spectrum, and all of us fit into that spectrum somewhere…so because I am here on the spectrum, and you are there, does that mean that we should be throwing stones at one another? Not on my watch…to me this means that though we all are diverse, we are still on the same spectrum overall. We should therefor align ourselves against any kind of oppression, and subjugation of our equality. Continuing with divisions keeps us all from focusing on obtaining this equality. Divide and conquer huh?

  • JAW


    Daath… Back at stonewall, it was Transvestites and Drag Queens that were there. They were forced to change their name to “Cross Dressers” when the terms Transsexual and Transgendered were coined.

    sounds like the Trans people have thrown Transvestites under the bus

  • Joanna Hill


    The Stonewall Riots was started by the “Drag Queens” of New York city. If you look at the pictures you quickly come to understand these “Drag Queens” we not gay men in drag, they were transgender women. And if you really want to find ground zero of the LBGT moment, check out the screaming queens of Compton’s Cafeteria in 1966 three years before the famous gay riot at the Stonewall inn. Although we are at the end of the acronym, we were the beginning of the movement.

  • Kasnar

    @Phil: The fact that both genders can get breast cancer came to my mind as well. Just proves the adage: bigoted people sometimes become bigoted doctors.
    Thank God for the internet! Without it, I’d still be wondering what the prefix cis- meant. Now that I know, a trace of memory does come to mind from having studied chemistry.
    It’s always interesting reading the comments on Queerty. When you think you’ve heard it all, you’re always surprised. I didn’t anticipate hearing gay/bisexual-identified persons resent their grouping or association with trans- in LGBT. Are the 4 letters in that acronym not enough distinction? Is someone claiming to have been referred to- individually- as a LGBT person? It almost sounds like they’re saying “your stigma is worse than mine so I don’t want to be associated with your stigma”. Look, at one time, far fewer people recognized the great diversity in sexual/gender expression and would call all of us queer – or something worse.

  • Phil

    @Kasnar: That begs the question of why there is a 4-letter acronym at all. Ls, Gs and Bs are all logically together because they are all homosexually oriented, to one degree or another, and are all defined by sexual orientation. Ts are not defined by sexual orientation and most are straight. They have been grafted onto LGBs because some “queer theorists” wanted to turn the gay movement into a war on gender. The Ts are happy to go along with this fraud because they get to coopt a larger movement that has more people, clout and money than they will ever muster. The whole thing is a politically contrived lie.

    I am not opposed to being allies with Ts on some issues. But LGBT as a concept is illegitimate, whether used to describe an individual or a single “community.”

  • Phil


    So you are celebrating the new protections under the Affordable Care Act announced only for trans people? That’s funny, I thought that LGBs were not allowed to get their rights unless Ts got theirs at the very same time and in the same legislation. That is why we don’t have ENDA. When ENDA was proposed, you insisted that it must be “trans inclusive” and even badgered gay groups to oppose ENDA unless it covered “gender identity.” The result is that we have no ENDA today and gay people suffer because of your demands.

    Yet when Ts alone get their rights, there is not one trans activist who says that these ACA protections should be rejected because they don’t also cover LGBs.
    Trans activists are the worst hypocrites in the world. And generally are the worst people in the world.

  • Daath1

    @Phil: Not at all Phil, sounds to me like your reading comprehension just isn’t up to snuff.Here in Denver those protections came after LGB persons had had protections here for about 10 yrs- before SB200. Then when it came time to implement SB200 it got co-opted by the LGB’S, and incorporated into the same protections for LGB’s that had already been in place. What this move on the Denver LGB’s essentially did was to wipe out SB200 altogether. I know this through research into this through some very reliable sources who work for DORA here. It was explained to me by this person at Dora that the Center here made a back room deal with some Transphobic politicians. Probably to secure marriage for themselves. doubt what I am saying? Do the research for yourself, and stop talking out of your a**!

  • Daath1

    @Kasnar: Thank you!

  • Daath1

    @Phil: Um no Phil…again you need to work on your reading comprehension, then check your choice of words. “So you are celebrating the new protections under the Affordable Care Act announced only for trans people?” I am celebrating the ACA because it was announced that it “includes” Trans persons!

  • Daath1

    @Phil: It’s all about EQUALITY for All people Phil! This is not special rights we are talking about here. These are rights that insure that an emergency room doctor doesn’t turn you away while your in the throes of congestive heart failure! Such as happened to me at a very refined, and distinctive hospital here in Denver. Wow! get over yoself!

  • Daath1

    @Joanna Hill: Thank you!

  • Phil

    Thanks for admitting that you are happy to have an ACA that protects “trans” people but not gay people. Apparently, some times the T can be separated from the LGB, at least when it is to Ts advantage. But it never works the other way.

    Ts are parasites on the gay civil rights movement. They contribute nothing and demand everything, and are happy to abandon their host if it suits their purpose. Amoral and utterly selfish, the trans activists are truly horrible human beings. The sooner gay people realize this, the better off we’ll be.

  • Jay Kallio

    Interesting that Queerty censors out my one comment, but leaves in the hateful comment of this Phil, calling trans people “parasites”, “amoral”, ‘utterly selfish”, and “truly horrible human beings”. Interesting. Please remove my article from your website.

  • Daath1

    @Phil: OMG Phil, you are a total maroon(MorAn) Nobody ever said this was for trans people only, It includes Trans persons Phil! Undoubtedly you are trolling. Your hateful words I think at least should not be welcome here!

  • Mackenzie

    This argument is odd to me. Phil seems intent on pretending that transvestites don’t fall into the umbrella term “transgender” that refers to crossdressing, genderbending, genderqueer, gender-nonconforming, and those who transition from one gender to another. He also seems to want to ignore the fact that much of the discrimination LGB face is of the “not masculine enough”/”not feminine enough” variety, the same as T’s face. The trouble with the ENDA that lacked anything to do with gender presentation was that it left a big gaping loophole where a flamboyantly gay man doesn’t get fired for being gay–he gets fired for being “girly.”

    I’m also confused with the “most trans people are hetero” line of argument. Is that before or after transitioning? Because it’s usually only one or the other. To the eye of anyone looking to discriminate, a straight trans woman used to be a gay man (and may have thought of herself that way at some point before fully realizing her identity). Yes, there are some people who transition from straight man to straight woman, but the hormone therapy making that change is rare enough that I really don’t think you can argue it as your basis for “most” (I do know one who went from gay man to lesbian).

  • Hyhybt

    @Mackenzie: The only relevant person I know well enough to say is a gay trans man who once identified as a lesbian… though there was time between I can’t go into, and the hormone treatments didn’t come in until well past the last change in that regard.

  • shelley dodt

    The only relevant thing is that a PERSON was not treated properly by a physician about a breast cancer diagnosis. Their sexual orientation or gender status should have NOTHING to do with any of it. A patient has breast cancer and should be told and treated appropriately.

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