A trans-inclusive fertility clinic is expected to open in Pittsburgh next year, offering sperm and egg donations, surrogacy services, in vitro fertilization, hormone therapy and more, aiming to address shortcomings in healthcare in Pittsburgh for the trans community. 

The clinic will be a partnership between Allegheny Reproductive Health Center [ARHC] and Mate Fertility, an organization dedicated to making the parenthood process affordable, accessible and comfortable. It will be run by Dr. Sheila Ramgopal and Dr. Amy Collins, two Pittsburgh physicians. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, almost 500,000 transgender people experience health care disparities in the United States.

Dena Stanley, executive director of TransYOUniting PGH, a mutual aid non-profit providing resources to Pittsburgh’s trans community, said the coming clinic will be helpful for the region’s transgender and LGBTQ+ community.

Dena Stanley, the founder and executive director of TransYOUniting, sits for a portrait in the organization’s offices on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023, in East Allegheny. TransYOUniting is a mutual aid non-profit that provides resources, trainings and events for Pittsburgh’s Trans Community. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)

“Having a family is still so difficult for us [the trans community],” Stanley said. “Couples are still turned away from adoption or healthcare because they are queer. … This clinic will give a safe option in an affirming place where they are not scared or discriminated against simply because of who they are.”

Dade Lemanski, 32, of Wilkinsburg, said another reproductive clinic in the area isn’t among the trans community’s most pressing needs. Lemanski said many trans people move to Pittsburgh at least in part because of its reputation for more affordable gender-affirming care through Medicaid and UPMC, but added that the healthcare providers here that brand themselves as all-inclusive don’t live up to that.

“Reproduction is an important part of life, but it’s only one part of life,” Lemanski said. “I think we need to focus on current care and truly make it all-inclusive first.”

Bridging the gap with REIs

Ramgopal said that the partnership with Mate Fertility will enhance ARHC’s existing services like administering different kinds of birth control, abortions and hormone therapy. Mate was founded in 2021 by brothers Oliver and Gabriel Bogner to create a more inclusive network of family planning services for people struggling with the high cost and low availability of fertility clinics around the country.

Dr. Sheila Ramgopal in front of the Allegheny Reproductive Health Center in East Liberty on October 12, 2023. (Photo by Amaya Lobato-Rivas/PublicSource)

“We have been in talks with companies like Mate for three to four years,” Ramgopal said. “We know we want to provide as many fertility services as possible in as comfortable and accommodating a space as possible, whatever your skin color, gender identity, whatever. … Mate has the more advanced training we need and focuses on groups that haven’t been centered.”

Ramgopal said they hope the ARHC and this new Mate fertility clinic will be under one building someday.

Read more: Your down-ballot votes have the biggest impact, officials and candidates say

Gabriel Bogner said the clinic will help address discrimination in healthcare for the LGBTQ+ community. 

“Not only is it difficult to seek fertility care in the U.S., as clinics and providers are mainly in larger cities, it is even harder for the queer community,” Bogner said. “Being in an accepting place in healthcare is so rare, and it shouldn’t be; that’s part of what we’re striving to fix.”

Mate Fertility currently has locations in Oklahoma City, San Francisco and Fresno, Calif. In addition to the Pittsburgh clinic, the company is also opening clinics in Wichita, Kansas, the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and Lubbock and Amarillo in Texas.

Mate Fertility’s partnerships with OB-GYNs as well as reproductive, endocrinology and infertility specialists [REIs] makes them unique among health care providers.

More stories

“REIs are basically OB-GYNs with a three-year fellowship that is mainly research,” Bogner said. “Even when people are struggling with getting pregnant, they go to an OB-GYN and then get sent to an REI. … We’re bridging that gap so people do not give up in the process and have easier access.”

The Pittsburgh clinic will offer educational programming in addition to fertility services such as consultations and resources on how gender-affirming care affects fertility, different kinds of infertility and sex education for all sexual orientations.

“Many people do not know about the abundance of fertility services and their own fertility, especially those undergoing gender-affirming care,” Bogner said. “Consultations are a big part of what we do.”

Traci Keen, CEO of Mate Fertility, said Pittsburgh was a market of interest based on the company’s value alignment with ARHC. 

“There are so many factors that go into choosing a clinic location, but geographical access to care and finding partners that align with our values as a company are most important,” Keen said. “This industry is simply not meeting its demands, but we need to work with those that put the patient experience first.”

Stanley said she hopes to partner with the new clinic to gather more research on the trans community.

“We are such an under-researched group; we need more data,” Stanley said. “We need to see how many people use these services to see how we can better help and support them.”

Lemanski said they “basically avoided doctors completely until I moved here a few years ago. … Navigating health care in my 30s is very interesting, especially when you have providers that have these biases and attitudes against [the LGBTQIA+ community] even though they say they don’t.”

Lemanski said that they have had bad experiences at clinics in the area and that they have seen the most bias in OB-GYN reproductive healthcare. 

“There is such a focus on cis-women seeking abortions, putting non-binary and trans-masc people in competition,” Lemanski said. “This zero-sum attitude that ‘this is what you have been given and you need to be happy with it’ needs to go away … We’ve been promised the world but still are not respected.”

The new clinic in Pittsburgh is projected to open next summer. 

“We just want to continue to let people know that we are a safe space and that there are a bunch of different ways to start a family,” Bogner said. “We’re a space of no judgment and are excited to be in Pittsburgh.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to better reflect Lemanski’s reasons for moving to Pittsburgh.

Erin Yudt is an editorial intern at PublicSource and can be reached at erin@publicsource.org.

This story was fact-checked by Sophia Levin. 

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation has contributed funding to PublicSource’s healthcare reporting.

Know more than you did before? Support this work with a MATCHED gift!

Through Dec. 31, the Wyncote Foundation, Loud Hound Foundation and our generous local match pool supporters will match your new monthly donation 12 times or double your one-time gift, all up to $1,000. Now that's good news!

Readers tell us they can't find the information they get from our reporting anywhere else, and we're proud to provide this important service for our community. We work hard to produce accurate, timely, impactful journalism without paywalls that keeps our region informed and moving forward.

However, only about .1% of the people who read our stories contribute to our work financially. Our newsroom depends on the generosity of readers like yourself to make our high-quality local journalism possible, and the costs of the resources it takes to produce it have been rising, so each member means a lot to us.

Your MATCHED donation to our nonprofit newsroom helps ensure everyone in Allegheny County can stay up-to-date about decisions and events that affect them. Please make your gift of support now.

Erin Yudt is a senior at Point Park University majoring in journalism and minoring in psychology. She’s originally from Sharpsville, about an hour north of the ‘Burgh. Erin is the current editor-in-chief...