Have you ever broken a bone? You know your first thought, “Alas!”
But what if it is said that the health worker is too busy asking you gender identity instead of focusing on repairing your broken bone? Sure, it’s important to record and review a medical history, but why would questions about hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery be relevant in that case?
There is a term for this phenomenon: broken arm syndrome.
This is the case when the healthcare provider – consciously or not – assumes that all medical problems are the result of a person’s transfer.
Transgender people require fair health care like everyone else – and experts advise the use of all tools in the arsenal of the trans community to combat discrimination.
Douglas Knutson, An assistant professor of counseling and counseling psychology at Oklahoma State University, co – author of the paper for Journal of Research on Women and Gender 2016 titled “‘Trans Broken Arm’: Health Stories of Transgender People in Rural Areas.”
When he began researching access to mental and physical health care for trans and non-binary people, he found that individuals being treated faced negative experiences, especially in rural areas.
“I think the trance’s basically broken arm is not allowing trans people to be human,” he says.
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Paula Neira, secretary of the committee for health workers who promote LGBTQ equality, says it this way: “Whether I have a penis or a vagina doesn’t matter because I’m here because of a broken arm because someone hit me in the arm.”
Accordingly, such biases can have deadly consequences D. Ojeda, a health policy advocate for the National Center for Transgender Equality.
“These biases affect a service provider’s ability to recognize serious health conditions before it becomes too late,” Ojeda says. “And unfortunately, sometimes even fatally, because they are not able to recognize it based on their biases.”
Something cisgender people forget – probably because he has never juggled feelings of gender dysphoria – is that “transgenderism is not a health condition,” says Persephone Rose, a 28-year-old non-binary transgender woman. It’s just something you can discover for yourself.
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Trans and non-binary people face barriers when seeking health care
Rose, who lives near Washington, DC, says their family did not provide support when they left in 2005.
“Trans people weren’t that much in the news,” they say (Rose uses them, and pronouns replace them), recalling their teenage years.
Rose crossed before she turned 18, although she later stopped crossing at six. Life as a trans woman, between discrimination in housing and employment, has become too stressful on top of medical care.
Doctor visits turned into a trigger. She would go for an MRI just to be asked about her last period – and then they would have to find out that she never has a period because she, um, doesn’t have a uterus.
“We got to the point where my medical records were really weird because I felt like I had to make up (explicitly) to even do an unrelated job,” she says.
Seeing greater trans visibility in the media gave her the courage to cross again.
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Rose started using a boutique preventive health company Forward Health before its second transition. She was comforted by the fact that the company was able to receive transgender patients. Her doctor, dr. Laura Billiet, introduced herself to her deputies, whom Rose considered a trans care competency.
Rose could finally address other aspects of her health without her trans identity stealing her attention.
Before that, “this would follow me, all the time in any health situation,” she says. “And it diminished my ability to stand up for myself, because it was always thought it had to be a problem. It had to be because you were on those drugs, or because you had those drugs or your problems had to be lifestyle related. “
When Forward started helping fill out prescriptions at the pharmacy, “it felt like I had superpowers.”
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Neira says she has had to spend a lot of time educating her own providers about transgender health care – although she is in a more privileged position than most, as she is the clinical program director for the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender Issues and a Navy veteran.
“Choosing that fight with me is really a stupid idea,” she says.
According to Neira, transgender women of color are most often exposed to discrimination throughout society, and health care is no different.
Washington, DC, the transgender couple Ahanu and Petrona faced discrimination from the health system during Ahanu’s pregnancy – especially on the 20-week ultrasound of their then unborn child. At the hospital, they thought that Petrona was pregnant, and not Achan – probably because of the assumptions about the gender presentation.
Eventually they looked for a midwife and delivered the baby home. They are both natives – Ahanu is Kainai from Canada and Petrona is Nawat, originally from Kuskatan and Lence, from Central America – and two-spirit, called someone who is a native member of the LGBTQ community.
The couple shared their story of the latest season of the Facebook Watch series. “9 months with Courteney Cox. “
They both received vitriol as the series aired, and Petrona is now the focus of right-wing media attacks for encouraging lactation.
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What trans and non-binary people can do to protect themselves
- Seek answers from the community. As much as possible for an individual to connect with colleagues from the transgender community and share information about who you should go to see a doctor over who you should avoid, is crucial, Knutson says.
- It is allowed to dismiss a doctor or not follow his advice. “Part of knowing when and how to do it relates to connecting with community members who have moved through those systems and who can speak wisely and with insight into those things,” Knutson says.
- Don’t let your health care provide discrimination. It’s against the law. “It’s a legal obligation not to discriminate against trans people, and that would include a willingness to provide this care, even if it’s not something you’ve done before,” Noah Lewis, Trans Health Project Director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. Visit Trans Health Project for more resources – and know that the same is true for the deprived insurance, also.
- Prepare for discouragement – and bring a backup. Lack of awareness still reigns, Lewis says. Steeling ahead of time is not a bad idea. Also, invite a loved one with you for additional support, and even call in advance to see if the service provider has experience working with transgender patients.
- Document everything. If the provider refuses to treat you and rejects your concerns, ask them to document them as such in your electronic health record. That could make them more responsible and serve as a form of protection if you need to bring a legal case, Ojeda says.
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What medical professionals should know
- Ask for pronoun people. It shows respect for people and their preferences, for Billiet. Listen and be respectful. “I know it sounds really obvious, but unfortunately, it’s less common than it really should be,” Billiet says.
- Self-education. Articles and research can only tell you so much. Go to YouTube, visit community events, and introduce people to those identities, Knutson says. There are many opportunities for continuing education for all types of specialties. “There’s actually no excuse for not being able to learn this material,” Lewis says.
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