Those in the transgender community face increasing discrimination and hardships while obtaining medical attention. Julie Noce reports.
Discrimination at the doctor’s office for trans community
Tanya Walker is a 53-year-old activist, advocate and cancer survivor living in New York city.
She’s also transgender, and getting proper medical care has been an issue for her.
She says her sexual identity was a problem for doctors when she first sought treatment… and was misdiagnosed with tuberculosis.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) TRANSGENDER PATIENT, TANYA WALKER, SAYING:
“…the doctor said to the nurse, ‘Should I ask?’ and she said, ‘Yeah, go ahead and ask.’ And he asked, when I’m in there coughing up blood, ‘Did you have a sex change? What do you have down there?’ And I said, ‘Why do you need to know that? Explain to me why you need to know what my genitals are.’ And he couldn’t give me an explanation. He just said ‘OK, we’re going to give you some antibiotics and then we are going to send you home.’ And that’s what they did.”
Many transgender people say the same rejection and stigma felt elsewhere in society often awaits them when they go to the doctor.
Physicians who lack knowledge on transgender issues can unwittingly create an atmosphere of disapproval and end up stigmatizing patients… which in turn, makes transgender people less likely to seek out care.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF THE GENDER AND SEXUALITY SERVICE AT NEW YORK UNIVERSITY LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER, ARON JANSSEN, SAYING:
“I’ve had patients who were literally kicked out halfway through their medical visit after revealing that they were transgender. They were told they were not welcome. A high proportion of folks actually faced physical and verbal violence in medical clinics because of being transgender. This is a major problem that we often don’t want to talk about.”
A report by UCLA Williams Institute estimates about 1.4 million Americans are in the transgender community and face acute medical needs.
They tend to have higher rates of preventable disease, substance abuse, suicide attempts and mental health issues than the general population.