A Patient’s Case Against Dr. Bryce Cleary, Op-Ed

“You might regret it,” he said. “And then what?” 

I was sitting in my doctor’s office. Internal medicine. The Corvallis Clinic. My primary care provider was refusing me treatment.  

When I first started penning this piece, I wanted it to read like a scene from a movie. I wanted to portray things with color and emotion. I wanted to put my two creative writing degrees to good use. But dramatic reenactment is not the right approach. I need to be direct with you. 

On August 5, 2019, I visited Dr. Bryce Cleary for help with gender dysphoria. I had, through years of therapy and self-work, come to the realization that I was transgender. Twenty-six years of presenting as a man – twenty-six years of waking up defeated – had led me to my primary care physician’s office in search of help. I was terrified. 

A byproduct of trying to stay hidden for so many years is the heightened ability to read emotions. When I told Dr. Cleary that I wanted to begin hormone replacement therapy, his eyes told me all that I needed to know. They gave him up by growing wide. 

If he wasn’t downright scared, he was shocked. 

“I can’t go against my ethics,” he said. We were only a few feet from each other, cramped into one of those tiny Asbury Building exam rooms. “There’s just not enough science out there.” 

I am a resourceful woman. I’m smart. I know how to look up scholarly, peer-reviewed studies, do my own research, inform myself. I did not go into his office ignorant, which is why the doctor’s ignorance still sits with me. There is science out there. Tons of it. 

Dr. Cleary asked, “What if you get testicular cancer?” 

The science says that male-to-female hormone replacement therapy reduces the likelihood of not only testicular cancer, but prostate cancer as well. This is according to the UCSF Transgender Care guidelines, which sources seven independent studies conducted between 2006 and 2015. 

Dr. Cleary told me, “Almost half end up regretting it and detransitioning.”  

The science says that only between 0.3% and 3.8% of people who undergo a medical transition regret doing so. Typically, that regret stems not from their own decisions, but rather from the social and familial ramifications endured while within transphobic environments. This is according to the Cornell University’s “What We Know” repository – which summarizes the findings of fifty-five primary sources. 

Dr. Cleary said, “Just the other week, a transgender woman who had vocal feminization surgery was in the emergency room. She developed a throat infection. It got nasty. She almost died.” 

The science says that only 14% of transgender women undergo vocal feminization surgery. This is according to a study conducted by the Yeson Voice Center and housed in the National Center for Biotechnology Information. This surgery was not on my radar. It was not why I was visiting him. Additionally, don’t all surgeries come with some degree of risk 

Dr. Cleary, who is now vying for a position of power – a position, mind you, that directly impacts the well-being of our community’s children – was trying to dissuade me with misinformation. Nothing he said on that day followed the World Professional Association for Transgender Health Standards of Care. Nothing he said that day aligned with fact or science.  

Nothing that Dr. Bryce Cleary said that day helped me. 

I can still pull up the visit summary. Reason for visit: None recorded. Discussion note: None recorded. Patient educational handouts: No information available. Medications administered: None recorded. The following list includes any diagnoses that were discussed at your visit: Gender dysphoria 

On that day, Dr. Cleary provided me with false data, cited incorrect information, and used fear tactics to deny me the medically accepted treatment for the condition I suffered from. 

I say suffered because the past tense is appropriate. I am two years into my social transition and one and a half years into my medical transition. I no longer suffer, but not because of him. He had gatekept my health with falsehoods. He failed me as a healthcare provider 

Now, he wants to be placed on the school board where he can reverse the progress that has been made to protect children who are like me children trying to find themselves and live their best lives. 

Listen, I have two degrees in writing. I’ve been published in journals. I’ve read my own work for an audience, then defended that work in front of a committee. Yet these words are the hardest I have ever had to put to paper. And I say “had to” because I had to. 

I am a twenty-seven-year-old trans woman and a transplant to this town. Dr. Cleary has been practicing medicine for longer than I’ve been alive. He’s embedded in this community. He’s on the Board of Directors for our little league. He’s a volunteer physician for our high schools. 

This is a game of David and Goliath by societal standards, and in comparison, I am no one 

He is someone – maybe your doctor, maybe your neighbor, maybe your friend – and he has power and influence over lives like mine. I am willingly outing myself to our community because I cannot stand by and allow a man wielding faulty science and misinformation to be put into a position that can negatively affect transgender and gender non-conforming children in this community.  

Dr. Bryce Cleary told me I might regret it if I transitioned. He told me he just couldn’t do it. In a way, by denying me, he was telling me transitioning was more dangerous than the risk of suicide if I didnt 

On the other hand, he did not tell me there was a doctor down the hall – someone practicing medicine in the same clinic as him – who specialized in LGBT healthcare. He didn’t ask his colleague. He didn’t refer me out. He simply shook my hand, logged off his computer, and sent me on my way. 

On August 5, 2019, in that little exam room, I believe Dr. Cleary let his prejudice get in the way of providing me life-saving medical care. This same prejudice on our school board will undoubtedly get in the way of making sure that transgender and gender non-conforming students are safe at school.  

Please join me in voting against that kind of future for our children. 

Sloane Rittner works in legal administration. She holds degrees from Miami University and Oregon State University. Native to Ohio, Sloane moved to Corvallis in hopes of pursuing a better life within a more accepting community. In her free time, Sloane enjoys riding her motorcycle, kicking the soccer ball around, and reading about mythical beasts and monsters. 

Guest Submission By Sloane Rittner  

Advocate staff attempted to contact Bryce Cleary for comment, and at press time, he had not responded. 

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