Defining A Role for the Transgendered in Healthcare

Defining A Role for the Transgendered in Healthcare

Written by: Sarah Ann Anderson, National Publications Chairperson 

          One of the most troubling stories of 2011 was that of a woman posing as a physician who was accused of injecting transgendered individuals with cement, mineral oil and “Super Glue” into their buttocks as a cosmetic procedure.1 Unfortunately news of this exploitation of the transgendered community is not novel due to the limited support for these individuals in American healthcare. In fact, the transgendered often go overseas to have plastic surgeries, which are a part of their transformation due to better accessibility to medical care and more affordable pricing. Although this news story shocked many, it is not surprising to those knowledgeable of the issues in the transgendered community as this medical minority has often been ostracized from general healthcare.

The term transgender has been deemed an umbrella term for a number of different descriptions of gender conceptualization. This can included transsexual, transvestite, transgenderist, androgyne, intersex and hermaphrodite to name a few. The general public as well as physicians, are not well educated on these individuals and as a result they have become a chronically underserved medical minority.2 It is essential to begin a systematic destigmatization and re-education on transgendered individuals on all levels of healthcare from the student to the politician. In addition, the social stigmas associated with being transgendered can hinder economic advancement thus placing them in another medical minority–that of homelessness. Many of these issues compound upon each other and compromise the health of this unique set of individuals.

One of the key barriers to effective transgendered healthcare is communication between physician and patient. It is essential that transgendered individuals are able to disclose themselves to their physicians without a fear of repercussion. In an article on health communication in the transgendered community, Dr. Jocelyn White  says, “Failure to establish rapport and communication between physicians and patients is associated with decreased levels of adherence to physician advice and treatment plans. Additionally, clinicians unaware of their patients’ sexual orientation or gender may fail to accurately diagnose, treat, or recommend appropriate preventive measures for a range of conditions.”2 Thus, the rapport needed in any physician-patient relationship is of increased significance in the transgender community whom already harbor a mistrust of the health system.

As future physicians, it is important that we recognize underserved communities and their unique needs so that they are better served. The transgendered communities require educated physicians and scientists that not only empathize but also recognize that they are part of the fabric of our healthcare system and that their needs are just as important as any other group.


  2. Dean, Laura, et. al. “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health: Findings and Concerns.” January 2000.



Filed Under: Marginalized Populations in Healthcare

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