NOTE: The intended purpose of this blog is to advocate for trans health and for the diverse LGBTQIA+ community to have access to inclusive, competent service providers. You’ll often see the use of “trans” throughout the writing of this blog.
As a reader, I hope that you will accept this as a term meant to include a large and diverse range of LQBTQIA+ adjacent identities. In this blog, I hope to include also identities such as transgender, transsexual, trans man, and trans woman that are prefixed by trans-, but also identities such as genderqueer, neutrios, intersex, agender, two-spirit, cross-dresser, genderfluid, and more.
For the sake of easier reading, I will write “trans” and “trans and LGBTQI+ community”, but know and understand that I believe all identities and individuals deserve accessible and approachable healthcare.
Through this blog, I hope to spread awareness of the struggles of the Trans and LGBTQIA+ communities, encourage other providers to join me in becoming LGBTQIA+ literate, and continue the work of helping educate other providers inside our own respective networks.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably feeling the call to improve and educate yourself further to be able to better provide for all of your patients, and especially to become more Trans inclusive and competent, so let’s get into it.
As professionals that serve the public, it is the job of healthcare providers to make sure each and every patient that walks in the door feels welcome, safe, and included. However, that’s most often not the case, especially when it comes to providing trans inclusive and competent care. I seek to challenge my fellow healthcare provider to step up and become leaders in changing the narrative around Trans and LGBTQIA+ healthcare to be safe, inclusive, and competent.
“One-third of all transgender individuals who had seen a health care professional in the past year had been harassed or denied care, and one-quarter experienced a problem with insurance related to being transgender. In addition, 23 percent of respondents said they avoided seeing a physician when needed because they feared they would be mistreated.” (AAFP)
For many trans people (and the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole), seeking out treatment is often more difficult than for the cisgender population because many service providers have done a mediocre job of working to stay trans inclusive and competent in their practices. Some of those struggles include…
- Pervasive mistreatment and violence
- Economic hardships and instability
- Financial instability and lack of insurance
- Location-based access barriers
- Lack of safe providers available
- Compounding discrimination (such as in the BIPOC LGBTQIA+ community)
- Lack of social and family support
- Trans-competent language barriers
Healthcare providers should seek further awareness of and preparedness to fill any gaps in their training and knowledge become more Trans inclusive and LGBTQIA+ inclusive. Here are three ways you can start to become more LGBTQIA+ and Trans inclusive and competent as a healthcare provider:
01. Biases Before attempting to learn new Trans inclusive and LGBTQIA+ inclusive language or dive into Standards of Care for Trans people, healthcare providers need to first challenge conscious (explicit) and unconscious (implicit) biases to deliver excellent care. To provide great care, healthcare providers need to understand where in the fabric of their beings they may judge people or have blind spots.
02. Language Evolution There may be terminologies, such as some words that you may have previously thought as accurate or acceptable, which are now incorrect, misused, and therefore disliked by some members of trans and LGBTQIA+ communities.
While keeping up with changing language and perspectives may feel like a moving target at times, it is always your best course of action to stay educated and up-to-date as society progresses and terminologies change. Check out this LQBTQIA+ glossary and this Trans Glossary to expand your language and develop more LGBTQIA+ and Trans inclusive language.
03. Standards of Care The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) promotes the highest standards of health care for Trans individuals by clearly outlining Standards of Care for healthcare providers to follow. Understanding these Standards of Care is a great way to become more Trans inclusive and competent as a healthcare provider.
Creating a Trans Inclusive Space
Being a trans-inclusive and competent provider starts before your patient enters your space. When working with any patient, it is important not to assume how they identify or what pronouns they use based on appearance. As a healthcare provider, one should always use the patient’s name and pronouns as shared by the patient both in speech and writing.
When patients fill out paperwork, it should always be inclusive. (This also includes digital forms.) Here are some categories to add to your forms if you do not currently have Trans inclusive and LGBTQIA+ inclusive and competent forms in-person and online:
- Gender (provide a space rather than selections)
- Sex assigned at birth (male/female)
- Sexual orientation (provide a space rather than selections)
- Pronouns (provide a space rather than selections)
- Genderless Body Diagram (include a space for the patients to put down the words they would like to use to describe their body parts)
It is important to allow your patient to not disclose answers on the form. Explain (or have your greeting team explain) at the very beginning of the appointment that if anything is triggering or upsetting within the forms they can stop filling out the spaces that make them feel uncomfortable and that they can wait to discuss further with their provider.
Before the service even starts, you’ll have a better understanding of your patient and how they’d like to be addressed, as well as creating a comfortable environment from the start. This is one small thing that you can implement in your practice that makes a big difference in becoming more trans-inclusive and competent.
It is also important to understand as a health professional that certain words, when regarding parts of the body or function of the body, are preferred by the trans community. In order to speak inclusively with your patients, try using vocabulary that doesn’t line up with a specific binary gender.
A good way to get used to this is rather than using this vocabulary with just your trans clientele, use it with everyone. Saying “a person with a cervix” includes a broader range of people. Another example can be “pregnant person” rather than “pregnant woman.” This way you can discuss procedures or topics with medical or anatomical terms while staying trans-inclusive.
Practice makes progress when it comes to building a trans inclusive and competent healthcare practice. With daily implementation with your team, patients, and fellow healthcare providers, you will become more comfortable and professional when speaking on trans and LGBTQIA+ health.
How to Better Serve the Trans Population
The best way for healthcare providers to become more trans inclusive and competent is to be always open to learning— from books and by walking the walk and talking the talk. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Seek further Trans inclusive and competent educational sources within your own area of practice (i.e. physical therapy, primary care, OB-GYN, etc.)
- Challenge your own conscious and unconscious biases early and often
- Participate in your local LGBTQIA+ community— attend events, parades, art exhibits, celebrating and hosted by Trans and LGBTQIA+ people
- Report discrimination against trans people to your superiors (if other staff or healthcare providers are saying discriminatory things about transgender patients, report them!)
- If your company has an LGBTQIA+ group, become a member (or rally to create one if there is not one already established)
- Always introduce yourself with your name and pronouns + wear a pronoun pin
- Educate your colleagues
- Participate in and attend national Trans inclusive and LGBTQIA+ conferences
- Show Trans individuals that they are welcome and will be properly treated in your practice before they even come into the building (this can be through, your website, in advertisements, on social media, and with physical signage at your practice)
- If you are able to do so, make it known publicly that your practice caters to the LGBTQIA+ community! (Though there should NOT be, there is currently legislation in select states that makes this statement and service illegal, so be sure to check your state and local ordinances before posting.)
Remember that while serving the trans and LGBTQIA+ communities, if you come across something you have no experience or understanding of, just ask— politely and without expectation. Obviously, this isn’t pertaining to performing actual services, but if your patient uses a term you haven’t learned yet, simply inquire.
Understand that it is NOT the patient’s job to teach you. It is YOUR responsibility, as a public service provider, to educate yourself beforehand for the sake of all your patients.
However, sometimes it may be necessary to ask what a person means by using a certain term; and for educational or clarification purposes, that’s ok. Don’t just assume the meaning, because that may lead to confusion and misunderstandings.
EXAMPLE: “I’m sorry, but I am unfamiliar with the term [ ______ ], but I would love to learn and become more educated on this term if you are comfortable with sharing the meaning with me.”
Don’t ask just to ask. Ask to become more educated. Ask to become a better service provider. Ask so you can provide better, more trans inclusive care.
As you are learning, you will make mistakes. That is the nature of learning. When you inevitably do, take full ownership of your mistakes around addressing someone’s name, pronouns, body parts, etc, and correct yourself.
If you notice another person on your team or working in your practice makes a mistake, you should also address it right away. (Here is a quick guide on how to address Trans and LGBTQIA+ language mistakes.)
If you are still nervous about working with Trans clientele, remember that you can and should always be open with your patients. Let them know that you haven’t worked with a trans client before, but have the desire to learn and improve, as well as work with them during your learning process.
As long as you ensure your patient is comfortable with it and you are willing to learn, you will be able to improve!
Need a Trans Inclusive Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist to refer your patients to?
If you have trans or LGBTQIA+ patient who is looking for pelvic floor healthcare, send them my way where they can book their FREE 20-minute consultation HERE.
If you’d like to learn more about trans pelvic floor health, head over to my Instagram and check out my content and/or send me a direct message!
For providers, here are some fantastic resources for improving your vocabulary and for gaining a better understanding of a diverse community of identities:
More content you may like:
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