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Gender Identity Crisis: Transgender patients face Discrimination in Doctors’ Chambers

About 30 percent of transgender patients report delaying or not seeking care due to discrimination

Sept 16, 2016: Society is gradually learning the basics of gender identity, but the medical profession has been slow to adapt, according to leaders in transgender medicine, transgender advocates, and patients.

About 30 percent of transgender patients report delaying or not seeking care due to discrimination, according to a report published in the June edition of the journal Medical Care. One in four says they were denied equal treatment in healthcare settings.

About 30 percent of transgender patients report delaying or not seeking care due to discrimination, according to a report published in the June edition of the journal Medical Care. One in four says they were denied equal treatment in healthcare settings, mentioned Reuters.

Tanya Walker had lung cancer and was rigorously coughing up blood, but her emergency room doctor kept asking about her genitals. “It seemed like they were not going to treat me unless I told them what genitals I had”, said Walker, a 53-year-old transgender woman, activist, and advocate, about her experience in a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in New York in the year 2013, mentioned Reuters.

She experienced similar stigma and disgrace as encountered by many other transgender people. The rejection that they tackle at home and in society, the same rejection had to be confronted by them in the doctor’s office, many reports being of harassment, ridicule, and even assault.

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 Transgender issues have soared into the U.S. public consciousness since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that same-sex marriages were a constitutional right. With the final piece of gay and lesbian agenda fulfilled, gender minorities turned their attention towards the unrealized transgender civil rights.

According to the Reuters, Walker said the doctor who was distracted by her sex organs, misdiagnosed her lung ailment as tuberculosis. He prescribed her antibiotics and sent her home. Three months later she discovered she had lung cancer. Walker is cancer free now,though.

Some doctors accept and acknowledge their profession is woefully out of date.

“We have a lot to apologize for in the medical community. Our treatment of transgender people has been abhorrent”, said Dr. Aron Janssen, founder and director of the gender and sexuality service at New York University Langone Medical Centre. Janssen, who only takes news patients who are transgender also said “the medical world is very far behind. It is a conservative organization, things are slow to move.”

Mentioned by PTI, transgender patients whose healthcare providers were not educated on transgender issues were four times more likely to delay needed care, as mentioned in the June reports in Medical care by Kim Jaffee and Deirdre Shrines of Detroit’s Wayne State University and Daphna Stroumsa od Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital.”Doctors who lack knowledge can unwittingly create an atmosphere of awkwardness and disapproval for transgender patients simply by asking questions” their research found.

A similar case as Walker’s had also taken place in the year 2008. A transgender man,Jay Kallio, had a lump in his breast said his main doctor, who he declines to name, never called him back with the results of biopsy, and when a radiologist checked upon him weeks later, he ended up discovering he had aggressive breast cancer. When Kallio did eventually speak to his primary doctor, the doctor responded saying ” I have a problem with your transgender status, i don’t even know what to call you.”

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However, the picture is not universally bleak for transgender patients, there are pockets of progress. The trans patients claim medical  professionals have become more consummate in the recent years, especially at large medical centers in big cities.

Mount Sinai Health System of New York, culturally trains all employees at its seven hospitals, who have contact with transgender patients. “Compared to where we were when I started trans work in the early ’90s, we have made tremendous progress,” said Dr. Barbara Warren, director for LGBT programs and policies for Mount Sinai.

However, according to a separate report issued last year by Shrines and Jaffee, nearly 42 percent of transgender men reported verbal harassment, physical assault or denial of equal treatment in a doctor’s chamber and hospitals. PTI reports, Their research was a secondary analysis of a 2011 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. That survey of 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming people found 19 percent were refused medical care and 2 percent said they were victims of violence in a doctor’s office. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has since 2014 has offered special transgender training for its medical staff, including an online course  taken by 4,800 employees.

Most schools are failing to prepare their students, according to a study of 2011 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The approximate time dedicated to teaching LGBT-related content was five hours, experts say most of that was for gay and lesbian issues, overlooking transgender health completely.

The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, is an exception, requiring three courses on LGBT health in its curriculum.The medical center, which treats about 250 transgender patients, has created the Transbuddy Patient Navigator program that assigns every transgender patient a helper to navigate the healthcare system. The hospital also has a 24-hour transgender hotline.

Private insurers are also at the frontline, changing record-keeping systems so that, for example, a transgender man who has legally changed his identity documents but is still capable of getting pregnant will not be denied obstetrics and gynecology care.

“Right now we have three transgender men who are pregnant and they are going through ob-gyn care,” said Mount Sinai’s Warren. “They’re all insured by companies that completely understand. … It’s a work in progress.”

– prepared by Enakshi Roy Chowdhury of Newsgram. Twitter: @enakshirc58




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