Medical practitioners have a responsibility to provide the best quality of care to all that seek it. Unfortunately, transgender and gender nonconforming patients currently face myriad obstacles to effective health care.
In a survey conducted by Lamda Legal, more than 70 percent of transgender and gender nonconforming respondents said they faced some type of discrimination from medical practitioners. That number includes 27 percent who were refused essential care, 51 percent who experienced being treated differently than other patients, and 65 percent who saw doctors that lacked proper knowledge of how to address health needs specific to transgender people.
To combat this gaping public health issue, organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, Transgender Law Center and the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health have worked to collect data on inequalities in the medical field and compile guidelines for those administering care. Below, practitioners can read more about best practices for treating transgender and gender nonconforming patients.
Language and Boundaries
Medical staff should take note to use proper language when interacting with trans patients, addressing them by their preferred pronouns regardless of assigned sex at birth.
The Transgender Law Center recommends intake forms, for example, include sections for “chosen name” in addition to “legal name,” and a blank area for sex/gender that allows patients to write in how they identify.
According to USC, allowing patients to address gender identity and expression on forms is both a measure of respect and helpful tool to gather data on health disparities faced by transgender patients. This kind of information can shed light on the impact of heteronormative culture on gender and sexual minorities seeking medical care.
TLC notes that practitioners can continue to show respect within the exam room by not asking about patients’ gender identity or genital status if not pertinent to the medical issue at hand, and not inviting other medical professionals to appointments with transgender patients as though they are an opportunity for training as opposed to private sessions.
Training and Policies
Some practitioners don’t provide care to transgender patients because they feel they lack proper training in trans-specific medical areas such as hormone therapy. But according to The Atlantic, trans-affirming care doesn’t involve exceedingly complicated medicine. Practitioners should seek out proper education so that they can effectively treat trans individuals. The medical community at large should view this training as required, and practitioners without it as lacking in essential skills to perform their duties as health professionals.
Lamda Legal notes that hospitals and medical practices should also provide training to staff and students about non binary gender expression. Staff on hand should understand the kind of discrimination trans people face and take measures to prevent it from occurring.
The Transgender Law Center advises medical settings have a specific policy in place to address instances of discrimination against trans and gender nonconforming patients.
Medical professionals can also make efforts to keep facilities inclusive, by, for example, providing single-stall restrooms.
Practitioners should also educate themselves on care for transgender children, so they can be of assistance to young people who may first be starting the process of transitioning, or have other pediatric medical needs.
As a medical professional, you can enact change by going beyond the bare minimum of care for trans patients. Become an active advocate, working to combat the health care inequalities faced by transgender and gender nonconforming patients.
Per TLC, you can reach out to community centers and LGBTQ organizations to advertise your trans-affirming medical services and become a recognized resource for the community.