Dr. Austin H. Johnson is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Kenyon College in Ohio – but he hails from South Carolina, where he’s still involved in extensive work to increase LGBTQ Southerners’ access to quality, affirming health care. He is a transgender man – meaning that he was raised female but felt for a long time that he is male, and so he transitioned and now lives every day as the man he has long known himself to be.
His passion for improving healthcare for LGBTQ Southerners – with a particular focus on transgender and nonbinary people – stems from his own experiences facing uncomfortable mistreatment and outright discrimination when he began medical transition in 2010 while living in South Carolina. He struggled to find a health care provider who would prescribe him testosterone, with one provider directly saying, ““No. We don’t do that kind of medicine.” When he finally found someone willing to prescribe the medicine, the environment was hostile, with the doctor explaining coldly, “I’m doing this because I took an oath.” The blows kept coming when he went to several different pharmacies that refused to fill the prescription, and then when he finally had the testosterone in hand, he realized he was not provided instruction on how to administer it.
“It seemed that the doctor and nurses did not want to touch me or engage with me on a human level at all,” Austin said about the experience. “There was no compassion for what I was feeling in that moment, which was a lot of anxiety, a lot of fear. In that moment, I thought about asking, ‘How are you treating me this way?’ But I realized I could do that or I could swallow it and get the healthcare that I so desperately needed and wanted.”