Feministing reported yesterday that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has issued new instructions to its members, advising them to prepare to treat transgender patients more effectively. The college’s statement points out that transgender individuals face a great deal of societal discrimination and, as such, generally suffer from poorer quality of health and health care than do their cisgender peers.
Many, if not most, transgender people face social harassment, discrimination, and rejection from family and society in general. Many of them are homeless, particularly youth who identify as transgender. Transgender individuals are at an increased risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, and physical abuse.
In light of the fact that transgender people often don’t possess to the means to afford specialized care, the college believes that OB-GYNs are uniquely placed to expand the routes by which these patients can deal with their health needs, some of which are unique. OB-GYNSs are now encouraged to provide general services ranging from STI screenings and Pap smears to standard hysterectomies, as well as to augment their practices with trans-specific services, such as breast and uterine cancer screenings for female-to-male patients (who have not had total sex reassignment surgeries) and homormone therapy consulations. Physicians are also encouraged to provide their office staffs with sensitivity training.
This move is clearly a brave and essential step forward for transgender rights and well-being. The CDC reports that transgender individuals are “among the groups at highest risk for HIV infection,” and that health care provider insensitivity—not to mention outright discrimination—is a major factor contributing to the increased infection rates. We need to be making quality health care as accessible as possible for a community that already faces so many challenges and disadvantages, and moreover, to provide it in a way that honors the patient’s gender identity in an understanding and non-judgmental environment. Hopefully, doctors will quickly implement this change in their offices and insist that their nurses, secretaries and, indeed, cisgender patients get on board as well.