Uneducated doctors are ‘killing the transgender community’
The UK’s National Health Service is great for many reasons.
It allows transgender people to get hormones free of charge, and surgical procedures for trans people are also free – via extensive waiting lists, admittedly.
The General Medical Council also has an online guide which contains advice for doctors about how to best meet the needs of their transgender patients.
But despite these guidelines, the public health system still seems to be lacking the proper resources and knowledge about trans people and their physical, mental and emotional requirements.
What with Trump’s transgender military ban, the bathroom bill debacle in Texas – which was thankfully repealed – and one set of parents in the Isle of Wight going so far as to pull their child out of school rather than allow them to be in a class with a transgender classmate, trans rights are a major topic of debate right now.
And let’s be honest – a lot of this arguing is bolstered by a general lack of education about trans people and how they fit into society.
Spoiler alert: that’s all we want to do. Fit in and live our lives.
And it isn’t just loud-mouthed transphobes who suffer from this ignorance.
Unfortunately, it can have a massive impact on the lives of trans people, making everything more complicated for us.
In this instance, I’m referring to the startling amount of doctors – excluding private gender specialists – who are utterly clueless when it comes to their trans patients.
For me, this became apparent when I applied for a new passport containing my chosen name and correct gender marker earlier this year, at the age of 22.
This act was prefaced by a complete lack of information, as the passport forms mentioned nothing about gender markers and getting them changed.
The most relevant part of the form was a small box saying a deed poll was necessary for a change of name, but that this was invalid when it came to changing your gender marker. Not helpful.
To make the process even more difficult, a lot of public-sector GPs are worryingly clueless about these things.
This was on display earlier this month, when a GP took it upon herself to set up her own private clinic to help trans patients who were stuck on long NHS waiting lists.
She has now been temporarily banned while being investigated for treating children under the age of 18.
The lack of education given to medical practitioners became apparent to me when I needed to change the details on my own passport.
When a trans person applies for a new passport, the passport office requires a doctor’s letter confirming that the patient is trans and that the transition is “permanent.”
And when it came to my GP writing that letter, I had to dictate what she should write in my letter – me, the patient, telling the doctor what to write.
I had to go back to her three times for her to re-write the letter, because it didn’t contain the correct wording that the Passport Office required.
As you can imagine, this was a very stressful experience.
Not only was I upset about the delay in my transition, I was also dealing with a licensed medical professional who wasn’t informed enough to carry out her role properly.
Sadly, this sort of ineptitude seems more common than not when it comes to trans people’s experiences with healthcare.
18-year-old Robin shared his story with PinkNews on Twitter.
Cole Walton, the Co-Coordinator of TransLeeds, also spoke to PinkNews about his journey.
His story was similar to Robin’s when it came to the doctor’s lack of knowledge and awareness.
And he raised a valid point about non-binary people and how doctors are sometimes completely unaware that it isn’t just binary trans people who physically transition.
Another young trans man, who wished to stay anonymous, also shared his story – and his words echoed those spoken by both Robin and Cole.
Another anonymous story drove home the point: sometimes doctors just don’t believe their patients.
Do you see a pattern here?
The process for trans people changing their personal details varies enormously depending on whether they are transitioning privately or not.
Thankfully, private doctors mostly seem knowledgeable about transitioning, often offering to write the required passport-change letter for their patients.
Alexander, a young trans man who only wanted to give his first name, said his experience was relatively uncomplicated, thanks to a well-informed doctor who was prepared to help.
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But knowledge of trans issues is still dangerously low in many cases.
The NHS has been contacted for comment, but had not responded at time of publication.
Along with passport forms being amended to include all necessary information for people changing their gender markers, professionals also need to be made aware of the requirements for people who are transitioning.
People’s time frames, prescriptions, dysphoria – all of these issues need to be discussed and dealt with properly.
Trans people should feel as though they can go to their GP and not have to worry about miscommunication or seeing their GP not understand them or what they need.
You can go to your doctor when you’re feeling unwell, with the confidence that you will be listened to and have your needs met.
People looking to transition deserve the same assurances.