Gender-affirming assistance is important

Gender-affirming assistance is important

June is Pride month.

When she was 12, Erin Reed knew she was transgender. But the Louisiana native didn’t have access to the medical care she needed to transition, so it would be another 17 years before the medical intervention allowed her to feel at home in her body.

“I went through a long period of trauma associated with hiding who I am,” said Reed, a transgender activist who is now 34. That trauma led to more than a decade of crippling anxiety and panic attacks that resolved after the transition. “In the years since my transition, I’ve been overjoyed, healthy, and happy. Everything I wanted to get out of this, I got, and more.”

Now, Reed lives in Maryland, a state whose governor recently declared it a sanctuary for transgender people, and has a team of health care professionals (HCPs) who see her as a trans woman and provide her with gender-affirming health care. needs: a luxury for many in the LGBTQ community.

What is gender-affirming assistance?

Gender-affirming care refers to a broad range of medical and non-medical services designed to help someone transition their gender, which means moving from the gender assigned at birth to the gender that matches their gender identity.

Gender-affirming treatments may include hormone therapy or surgery. But it also refers to health care provided in an accepting way, regardless of how the patient identifies. This can be as simple as asking healthcare professionals and using their preferred pronouns to be knowledgeable and experienced in treating transgender people.

Read: Embracing Hope: The Transformative Power of Gender-affirming Care >>

“For transgender patients who have historically and concurrently been discriminated against within the healthcare setting, gender-affirming care means having a provider who respects and celebrates who they are,” she said Sarah Pickle, MD, associate professor of clinical family and community medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. “For some people, that might mean allowing their body to come into alignment through hormone therapy or other medical or surgical interventions.”

Pickle helped develop UC’s transgender medicine curriculum, which is integrated throughout the general practice curriculum. “Just like our cisgender patients (people whose gender identity matches their assigned sex at birth), our transgender patients are represented in patient stories, clinical vignettes, and the teaching that our medical students will have.”

Why gender-affirming assistance matters

Getting gender-affirming care can mean the difference between life and death. Research shows that 8 out of 10 transgender youth have it considered suicide – and 4 out of 10 went on to try. gender dysphoria – when your gender identity doesn’t match your assigned sex – it can cause severe emotional distress. But when people’s physical bodies match who they know they are, depression and anxiety can be less seriousand self-esteem, self-acceptance, and confidence improve.

According to a Study 2022Gender-affirming treatments, including puberty blockers and hormone therapy, make a huge difference in the mental health of trans people. In fact, having gender-affirming care reduces your odds of depression by 60% and your odds of suicide by 73%.

“If someone has a marginalized identity and is in a chronic state of social stigma and discrimination and has less access to medical care to improve other aspects of their health, it (puts their body under) chronic stress,” Pickle said. “It will lead to worse mental and physical health outcomes.”

In one surveyNearly 1 in 4 transgender people reported not seeking health care when they needed it (even when it was not transition related) for fear of being abused by their health care provider.

Read: Access to Healthcare for Transgender Women >>

“It was really scary going to the doctor the first six months after transitioning,” Reed said. She was nervous about how she would be perceived and how health professionals would treat her.

And fear is rational: approx 1 in 3 transgenders who have seen a healthcare professional have reported a negative experience, such as harassment or denial of treatment due to their gender identity

“Sometimes it’s very explicit that people are being bullied because they’re transgender,” Pickle said. “People are asked inappropriate questions or even forced to undergo inappropriate exams due to the lack of cultural competence of the operators in this area and often due to transphobia. Then there is this more implicit discrimination that can happen which is often due to lack of knowledge, lack of training and lack of experience in the healthcare field.

Threats to gender-affirming assistance

More than 146,000 young people in the United States have already lost or are at risk of losing access to gender-affirming care.

More than 125 laws have been introduced so far this year to ban or limit gender-affirming care, including one in Ohio, where Pickle practices. Nineteen states have already done so passed legislation limiting gender-affirming care, going so far as to punish health workers with prison if they treat minors. In response, 11 states and the District of Columbia have laws passed or signed executive orders protecting access to gender-affirming care.

Read: Transgender Children’s Rights Are Under Attack >>

Critics of gender-affirming care argue that supporting children in transition is child abuse and that children should wait until they are adults to avoid later regrets. However, a 2021 study review found that only about 1 percent of teens who transitioned regretted their decision.

“Gender-affirming care is medical care, period,” Reed said. “It’s run by teams of doctors, psychologists and parents…and taking away access prevents parents from helping their children get the care they need.”

Pickle said laws banning gender-affirming care have far-reaching consequences for how healthcare professionals interact with their patients.

“In general, these laws that try to prevent necessary, evidence-based medical treatment really break the relationship between patient and doctor,” he explained.

Many of Pickle’s students and patients are terrified, and bans have impacted where her students decide to practice, ultimately leading to fewer health care professionals with knowledge and experience with trans issues in conservative states. It’s an issue, she says, that should be important to people outside the transgender community.

“Think of someone you care about with a health condition who is getting great care from their doctors and is thriving. Then suddenly — even if that care is based on good evidence and there are studies to back it up, and people are fine — someone tells you that their loved one can no longer access that care. It’s devastating.”

Reed points out that the same states that ban gender-affirming care for transgender people are denying women reproductive rights with wildly restrictive abortion bans, and that the parallels are startling.

“These laws that ban essential health care for trans people are not separate from laws that also target other forms of health care,” Reed said. “There are ‘abortion refugees’ who leave their home states to seek assistance because their abortions are criminalized, and trans people who flee those same states because their primary health care is criminalized.”

Ultimately, she said, laws that ban abortion and gender-affirming treatments violate human rights, and both will have enormous consequences for communities and individuals.

“It’s all anti-science and anti-body autonomy,” he said.

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