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Opinion

Giving Our Providers Tips: RAD Remedy's Advice for Working With Trans Patients

September 28, 2017

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"Ask, don't assume."

Many of us who are trans, gender non-conforming, intersex and/or queer (TGIQ) would love to see everyone put this simple phrase into practice. But we know that some need it spelled out in a bit more detail.

If you've ever wanted to make it plain how your providers can change their ways, help is at hand. You'll find those three powerful words as the lead-in for the first of ten vital tips on a handy new chart from RAD Remedy, a group dedicated to accurate, safe, respectful and comprehensive care to improve individual and community health -- making it a must-have for your next trip to a provider's office if there's any chance that they could use a boost on their TGIQ learning curve.

"10 Tips for Working With TGIQ Patients" is available stand-alone or as the final page of a comprehensive report called "National Standards of Care for TGIQ Health: A Community-Driven Understanding of Competent Care for Trans, Gender Non-Conforming, Intersex and Queer Individuals." That's a mouthful of a title, but this one sheet gives the bottom-line "to do" list for providers and staff who want to get it right.

I'm printing it out to take along with me as I go about my days as a trans person with several chronic illnesses, which often means a bunch of encounters with different providers. Through the years, even with generally good-to-awesome health insurance, I've experienced bias and misunderstanding that ranges from annoying to adversely affecting my care and health. This has occurred not just at medical offices for the broad population -- it's also happened with ostensibly LGBT-oriented primary care providers.

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And, despite many years as an activist and health communicator, I often find it hard to speak up in the moment. Trauma is not absent from my history, or from the list of factors that contribute to my challenging health conditions. My tongue gets tied and my heart gets heavy in the moments of misgendering and misunderstanding. So, now I can instead just hand over this sheet of paper.

I get ornery when I write and talk about these things, but I know in my heart that sharing these materials are acts of respect and love for my community, as well as an actual service to providers. It's great to have something very concrete to share as I make my rounds as a high-utilizer of health services; even for the well intentioned, much of this stuff is not intuitive in a society so ingrained in the binary.

For example, tip #3 is super specific and handy:

Describe people by features, rather than perceived gender. "The person in the blue coat" or "the patient with a red scarf" is more accurate than "that man over there."

Reading the RAD Remedy list is itself therapeutic for me, seeing so much of the world in which I want us all to be able to live. I'm reading tip #10, as I'm about (once again) to run out the door for an hour-long commute to another care appointment.

In all work with TGIQ patients, focusing on patient-guided care is critical; patient's needs and desires should direct treatment goals and methods. Coordinating medical care with various specialties (such as endocrinologists and therapists) should be a priority, in order to effectively treat the whole person in an affirming, empowering manner.

Whether you share the tip sheet or the full report, or just read them as a remedy in itself, these community-driven guidelines may be just what the doctor ordered: doctor gender health justice, that is.

JD Davids is the director of partnerships and a senior editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

Follow JD on Twitter: @JDAtTheBody.

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