Transgender Day of Remembrance: Why it Should Matter to Patient Advocates

Transgender Day of Remembrance November 20th

The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), is observed annually on November 20 as a day to memorialize those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia.

Why should this matter to you? Why does it matter to me?

Bias is not just held by people who you don’t know, or people who live in certain areas or work in certain professions.  Bias comes in many different forms and we need to be prepared. It may not have results as severe as those we recognize on days such as TDoR, but as an advocate at the bedside I have witnessed some attitudes that have concerned me. 

One example: volunteers passed by the room of a transgender patient and refused to drop off a newspaper because the volunteers were “scared” of them. In this hospital, it was acceptable because the staff did not want to “upset” the volunteers. Or the transgender man who went for a hysterectomy, and the staff refused to call him “he” even though his name and presentation identified him as a man. A transgender man was denied a comfortable room because the hospital staff didn’t know where to put him.  A transgender woman who lies about her last menstrual cycle because of a lack of privacy.

People who are transgender may be targeted more than others for a number of reasons including lack of awareness and lack of understanding.  Going through the healthcare system for a transgender person can be difficult especially if they don’t know what to expect. But you can help.

If you know someone who is transgender, offer to go to the doctor or hospital with them.  You can be sure no one is involved in their care that doesn’t need to be. Staff may get curious and ask to be part of the exam. Be sure the patient feels respected and able to say “no” to observers. If the patient wants to be part of educating staff, they can say “OK” too.

Make sure the appropriate name and pronouns are used.  This can be a very sensitive topic even when it’s an honest mistake. Many people who are transgender have worked hard to avoid these mistakes, so it hurts even more.

Most important, ask – ask the person who you are helping how you can help them get through a medical exam, care and treatment.  Don’t assume you know how you can help.

Ilene Corina, BCPA is a Board Certified Patient Advocate and President of Pulse Center for Patient Safety Education & Advocacy

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Pulse Center for Patient Safety Education Advocacy