Wonky Wednesday: Trans Medical Refusal



By Jack Harrison, Policy Institute Manager

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. Organized annually by Philly’s LGBT health clinic, the Mazzoni Center, this marks the twelfth annual convening and my very first time attending. Over time, the conference has grown and expanded its scope to include many areas of trans life and advocacy. In fact, it cast a vision so large that I even had the pleasure of attending workshops focusing on organizing efforts in east and southern Africa. Even with the conference’s expansion, Philly Trans Health has continued to have a strong health focus.

When most people think of transgender health, I believe things like hormone replacement therapy, mental health care and transition-related surgeries come to mind. However, one of the most unconscionable things that came to light through the National Transgender Discrimination Survey was how hard it can be for trans people to get basic healthcare. To be clear, I’m talking about healthcare having nothing to do with their gender identity – think breaking an arm, being in a car accident, having pneumonia. Because of discrimination by health care providers we learned that transgender people are having trouble getting medical care for even the most basic needs.

Respondents who tried to access care in the following settings were denied equal treatment at the following rates: in doctor’s offices and hospitals at a rate of 24%, emergency rooms at 13%, mental health clinics at 11%, by EMTs at 5% and in drug treatment programs at 3%. We also asked whether respondents had been denied service altogether by doctors and other providers.4 Nineteen percent (19%) had been refused treatment by a doctor or other provider because of their transgender or gender non-conforming status.

Race Draft

Of course, as with everything found in the survey, the impact of racism on transgender people of color also showed very clearly.

So not only do we need trans-competent care and access to transition-related care, we also just need healthcare providers to be professional and treat all their patients regardless of gender identity/expression. Tell the doctors in your life about this pervasive problem.