In the past, Castiel Darling enlisted the help of others when preparing to visit the doctor.
Darling (they/them), of Corvallis, is transgender and non-binary.
“I felt like I had to bring people with me to defend me and make sure that I was being treated the way that I deserve,” Darling said.
Darling is disabled, suffers from ongoing chronic illnesses, and recently was diagnosed with diabetes. They couldn’t avoid medical care. So, despite facing discrimination and oppression in past medical visits, they kept searching for a doctor they could trust.
Darling has volunteered with the Gender Health and Community Network, an advocacy group of trans-affirmative providers serving as liaisons to increase access to health care and public services in Benton, Lincoln and Linn counties. That’s where Darling first heard about Olivia Danforth, MD, (she/her) a physician at Samaritan Family Medicine – Geary Street in Albany.
Maybe this time would be different, they hoped.
And it was.
“We’re going to take your health care into your hands and make sure that you’re a part of it,” Dr. Danforth assured Darling.
“It’s hard to put into words how affirming she is,” Darling said. “It feels like I am collaborating with her to meet my health needs. I’ve never felt like that with a doctor before.”
Having Dr. Danforth as their physician has been life changing. Darling is sharing their story about what it means to have a clinician who understands their needs with compassion.
Dr. Danforth’s clinical interests include LGBT health and gender-affirming care. Foremost, she wants every patient to feel safe.
“One of the most powerful things I can offer is being someone patients can trust, no matter what they have going on in their lives,” Dr. Danforth said.
Darling received hormone replacement therapy and gender-affirming surgery.
“Without Dr. Danforth, I don’t think I would have tried. It wouldn’t have been attainable for me,” Darling said. “She championed the idea that I could take control of my health.”
After quitting physical therapy after a bad experience, Darling has started going again to a different provider after a nudge and referral from Dr. Danforth.
“I gave it another shot and was able to find a really affirming physical therapist,” Darling said.
Having Dr. Danforth as their physician seems “miraculous.”
“I have control over my health,” they said.
With their newfound acceptance, Darling has become a greater advocate for the transgender community, volunteering with organizations that provide local connections and resources. Darling said that when trans people they know have a negative medical experience, they quit going to the doctor. Many are not getting the medical services they need.
That’s why Darling volunteers to help transgender people find compassionate care. Darling and their partner, Elijah Stucki (they/them), are involved with the Mid-Willamette Trans Support Network. The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis, Darling’s faith community, was crucial in developing the Trans Support Network, which provides safe spaces for transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming people to gather, as well as public education. And Darling plans to participate in Samaritan’s new LGBTQIA2S+ Patient Advisory Council that is forming.
“Trans people are just people,” Darling said. “They want and need health care just like everyone else.”