How Healthcare Can Become More Trans-affirming

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Many systems in our world are entrenched in cissexism, which ends up harming trans people. The healthcare system is no exception, and this is a call to action for people who have influence in the healthcare sector(when it is safe to take action on this issue).

Making healthcare more trans-friendly helps create a world in which trans people are accepted for who they are and provided adequate support. I will detail some ways in which people who work in the healthcare field can better provide support to trans people.

1. Allow people to disclose their pronouns and gender identities if they want to, but do not coerce anyone into revealing this information:

This ensures that if, for example, a patient is okay with disclosing their pronouns and gender identity to a healthcare provider, they are allowed to do so and their wishes are respected. Additionally, a provider should not disclose this information to other people such as caretakers or other people in the healthcare field unless the client explicitly stated that they are okay with that information being disclosed to certain people.

Pronouns and gender identity are pieces of information that should also not be forced out of people. Many trans people could feel unsafe disclosing this information, or simply prefer not to. Other people are unsure of their gender, and therefore may not be sure of their pronouns or gender identity. Also understand that there are gender identities beyond the male-female binary, and these non-binary genders are just as valid. So are gender-neutral pronouns such as the singular ‘they’ and neopronouns such as ‘xe’ or ‘e’.

Given these cases and others, it is not necessary that one must disclose their pronouns or gender identity in a healthcare setting, especially when it is not clinically relevant , unlike other aspects such as hormone levels and biological organs which can be relevant in medical settings, exempting psychiatry and counselling, in which gender identity and pronouns may be relevant to mental health. Overall, it is imperative to create a safe space in which the self-disclosed pronouns and gender identities of clients are respected, but the clients are not coerced into giving out this information.

2. Provide access to trans resources related to healthcare:

This is more relevant in the context of trans-affirming medical treatment, but in general, trans individuals who wish to have information about these treatments should be provided access to it. Even though some of these treatments are still under study, healthcare providers should do their best to provide accurate information about medical transition options such as hormones and surgery when possible.

Additionally, intersex people, who have traits that are in between the binary ‘male’ and ‘female’ categories should not be coerced into medical treatment that attempts to make them appear more like a binary sex, and should always be given the option to choose whether or not they wish to undergo any treatments. This includes ‘sex correcting’ surgeries performed on intersex infants. The final takeaway is that intersex people should be given agency when it comes to their biological traits.

In many places, there is a prevailing transmedicalist view that only trans people who fit a certain narrative, if trans people are even recognised by legislation that is, should be allowed access to medical transition. Healthcare professionals should work to dismantle this view, and instead acknowledge that trans people deserve access to medical transition if they want to undergo the process, and it doesn’t cause harm as long as the client makes informed decisions about what forms of medical transition they want to pursue.

Much of the ability of one to make informed decisions rests in their access to accurate information about the risks, side effects, and benefits of various treatments. This also applies to the larger context of all healthcare treatments, but here I am discussing gender-affirming medical treatment specifically. Without judgement or gatekeeping, trans people should be allowed access to gender-affirming healthcare, and also given the ability to withdraw from medical treatments when they acknowledge that they are not ready for the treatment, find that the treatment does not improve their health, or any other reason one might have.

3. The Lowdown on Gender Dysphoria:

I will preface this by stating that not all trans people experience gender dysphoria, and some cis people also experience gender dysphoria when their traits do not align with their gender identity. Gender dysphoria is essentially a feeling of ‘wrongness’ that results when one has traits associated with a gender identity that they are not, or is perceived as a gender they do not identify as.

One does not have to have gender dysphoria in order to be trans; on the contrary, some trans people find that the gender euphoria they experience upon presenting as or being seen as the gender they truly are is more indicative of their gender identity than dysphoria. Gender euphoria is the opposite of dysphoria, and is characterized by a feeling of happiness or ‘rightness’ with respect to gendered traits or external perception as one’s true gender identity. Some trans people even find that their feelings about their true gender identity surpass the concepts of gender dysphoria and euphoria.

For these reasons, gender dysphoria should not be seen as the only thing that makes one ‘truly’ trans.

4. Start by learning:

Most medical curriculums do not encompass treatment of transgender individuals, and often pathologize intersex people. For this reason, change is required at the root of the profession: education. Were you, if you are a healthcare professional, as a student, properly educated on trans identities? Likely not.

For this reason, medical professionals should seek out accurate resources on trans people, and remember to be open-minded and respectful. A lot of change can be brought about in this field if the professionals in it seek to learn about trans people and respect them for who they are.

5. Provide trans people and other marginalized groups the ability to advance their careers in the healthcare field:

As in many occupational fields, openly trans people and other marginalized groups are not offered as many opportunities in the medical field as their cis peers. People who work in the healthcare sector should be mindful that they do not make biased judgements about people based on their identity. Trans people who work in the healthcare field or aspire to do so should be supported and accepted for who they are.

Doing so will create a more welcoming environment for trans individuals in healthcare, and ensure that marginalized people are allowed to make advances in their careers just as much as their non-marginalized counterparts.

Overall, the healthcare sector of today has many hurdles to cross before it becomes truly accepting of trans people. I hope that the medical field of tomorrow is more supportive of trans people, along with the world in general. Change starts with small steps, and I implore whomever is able to do so to help enact changes regarding the state of healthcare when it comes to being compassionate towards trans people.

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(They/them or Lea/leaf)

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