Procuring safe hormones for use in Hormone Replacement Therapy has historically (and is to this day) a worry for trans people. Although nowadays, with the increase of transition services, safe hormones are relatively easy to find for those who can afford official prescriptions, this document shows that that wasn’t always the case.
The Center for Special Problems was an institution in San Francisco that offered numerous services (many listed here) for transgender people. Although no longer in operation, it did exist for several decades. Its name, however, is a clear indicator of how early it was founded: talk about a name that can be unpacked. The designation of transgender people as inherently dealing with “special problems,” whether this was understood to be in and of themselves or as a result of society, still seems fairly stigmatizing. Yet at the same time, the name provides a certain degree of anonymity: merely knowing the title of the organization wouldn’t tell anyone which community they served.
The Center was one of the largest and most popular resources for trans people in the Bay Area, which makes the fact that they were giving out unsafe hormones even more concerning. There is not enough detail to know how this came about, or whether there was any sort of backlash against it, but the image of trans people being prescribed hormones not even fit for animal consumption is rife with potential metaphors. There may well be mention of this or mobilization around it elsewhere that we couldn’t find, as Angela Douglas, who wrote the article, was a very prominent trans activist and founded the first national transgender magazine.