Bioethics Blogs

Medical Training for Transgender Patients Needs to Include Sensitivity to Social Stigmas for both Gender and Sexual Orientation

The recently published article on doctor’s lack of expertise in treating transgender patients in The Guardian is an important step forward in highlighting current disparities in healthcare services for this population.  The study, based on interviews with sample of 23 physicians and psychologists who chose to work with transgender patients, focused on current challenges in providing gender affirming care for individuals who are seeking medically supported transitioning treatments, such as hormonal replacement therapies (HRT).

A recently completed study by Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D. and her colleagues, funded by the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) confirms the need for greater medical training, based on the reports of 228 transgender males, females and gender non-conforming youth ages 14 – 21.  “Fear of stigmatization is a significant barrier to healthcare among these youth,” notes Fisher, Director of Fordham University’s Center for Ethics Education, “and in our study, 51% reported they did not discuss their transgender identity with their primary health care providers out of fear that the provider would not be accepting.”

“Fears of health discrimination prevent many youth from seeking hormonal replacement despite the fact that participants in our study commented that it would help them to be who they were ‘meant to be’ and to ‘help make me look as I feel’,” Fisher stated. “An astonishing high percentage (88%) of patients who were receiving HRT reported their doctor had never discussed fertility problems that often accompany hormonal treatment.”

HRT is not the only area in which there are disparities in treatment opportunities for transgender and gender nonconforming patients (TGNC).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.