Tag Archives: gender

Doctors Need to Initiate Communication with LGBTQ Patients

LGBTQ patients are faced with a variety of health obstacles.

Within the community are high rates of substance abuse and suicide. Men who have sex with men (MSM) make up the majority of new cases of HIV. In order to narrow and eventually close the health gaps between LGBTQ patients and those who are straight, doctors need to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity with their patients.

Dr. Harvey Makadon, director of the National LGBT Health Education Center at the Fenway Institute in Boston said that few physicians talk to patients about sexual behavior, desires and issues of identity.

It’s important for doctors to speak up about sexual orientation and gender identity with patients. It’s a huge part of one’s life and certain issues need to be addressed that affect both mental and physical health. Doctors are potentially missing some of the big issues. Those in the transgender community are of particular concern. Statistics in the community are unsettling. Transgender individuals suffer high rates of poverty, crime and STDs. Almost one-third of transgender women have HIV. According to Makadon, that’s a rate 49 percent higher than other adults of reproductive age.

Doctors Need to Initiate Communication with LGBTQ Patients

Physicians who are not afraid to treat transgender patients hold the key to preventing significant medical issues. It’s tricky because not all MSM identify as gay and some transgender people may have trouble defining gender clearly, particularly those who are younger and. It’s important for people to become comfortable and get to know LGBTQ people. It will allow individuals to feel at ease in seeking care.

Health issues may start early; children and teens struggle with sexuality. LGBTQ teens have a higher suicide rate than straight teens—two to three times higher, in fact. There are also issues with regard to lack of support systems, as many of them have faced parental rejection. This often leads to homelessness, which leads to risky behaviors that include drug and alcohol abuse and sex work. Transgender and gay minorities face rates of HIV infection that are even higher.

Makadon says, “Most people who I’ve had this discussion with say that the duty to care for everybody has to outweigh personal values. For people who continue to feel too conflicted, they probably shouldn’t continue to be in a caring profession. That may sound harsh, but I do think it’s a reality that if we do provide healthcare that we have to provide healthcare for everybody.


What is Cisgender Privilege?

First, it’s helpful to know what the term “cisgender” means. This means that a person’s gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth and then a person’s gender matches the gender by which others perceive them. The term has been around for over 20 years and is used a lot in educational settings, particularly when discussing gender identity and expression in trans and queer communities.

Cisgender privilege shows how gender/sex alignment means being free from having to think about or address things that those who are not cisgender do quite frequently.

What is Cisgender Privilege?

The following are some examples of privileges you might have if you are cisgender:

  • You are not misgendered. People refer to you by the correct pronouns every day.
  • People do not ask you nosy questions about you are genitalia, what type of medical procedures you’ve had, and your real gender is not in question, or connected with the genitalia another assumes you have.
  • You are able to get into sex segregated facilities such as bathrooms and events that are in alignment with your gender identity without being questioned, refused, or at risk of harassment or even physical violence.
  • When you search for employment, housing, banks, go to vote or receive medical treatment, you don’t have to worry about your gender or what others perceive your gender to be.
  • In the unfortunate event that you are a victim of physical and/or sexual assault, you don’t have to fear being blamed because of your gender expression or identity and you don’t have to fear that the attacker will be allowed a reduced sentence due to what is called “trans panic defense.” Some in the law profession still believe this argument is viable and that it partially excuses violent assault or even homicide.

Cisgender privilege is incredibly wide-ranging. It’s a lot for the non-privileged person to have to deal with on a daily basis and leaves little else for them to think about. This includes those who were incorrectly sex-assigned at birth and those who make a choice to present as a different gender, as they are distinct from each other.

Don’t be mistaken, many gay, bisexual, and lesbian folks have cisgender privilege. For example, it’s very possible for a gay man to be gender-conforming. The fact he presents physically as a man means that he won’t be challenged when attempting to use male designated facilities or attend events for men. On the other hand, if a heterosexual man was sex-assigned female at birth, he may face his life being challenged or harassed for not being “man enough.”

If you recognize yourself as cisgender, perhaps you’ll understand privileges you’ve previously taken for granted and try to help those you know who are gender non-conforming or transgender.

6 Damaging Myths about Non-Binary People

The biggest myth about non-binary people is that they’re non-existent.  What does it mean to be non-binary?  Non-binary gender identities cannot be fit into the male/female, accepted binary. It’s more simple to imagine an entire spectrum of gender and know that everyone fits somewhere on it and they don’t always necessarily remain in the exact same place. Yet, let’s remember that “male” and “female” do not begin and end this spectrum.  “Genderqueer” (GQ) is another word some use instead of non-binary.  There are plenty of harmful stereotypes about non-binary folks out there.  Here are six common ones that need debunking:

It’s just a fad
It is not an option to choose between male and female for gender identity for a non-binary person.  It’s not a game that anyone’s playing for attention…it’s very real.  Gender expression (the type of clothes you might choose to wear, for example) is not the same as gender identity. This is where a lot of people seem to get confused and think of non-binary people as if they’re folks trying to fit in with a trend.

Non-binary people are just confused
Confusion is natural for a lot of people and there’s nothing wrong with being confused.  It is part of the process of many trans people.  However, the fact that someone is non-binary doesn’t mean they’re confused.  It just means that they’re not male or female…or they are genderless (agender).

This is a new concept
The fact that non-binary folks haven’t received much recognition in the US until recently doesn’t mean it’s a new concept. There are  many cultures in the world who use words for genders that aren’t “male” or “female”.

6 Damaging Myths about Non-Binary People

Non-binary people want to destroy gender
Just because non-binary people want more options than “male” and “female” for gender doesn’t mean they’re trying to destroy gender.  This assumption doesn’t observe the fact that many non-binary people do have genders.

Non-binary is the same as intersex
Of course, this is untrue.  Being non-binary means you have a gender identity that doesn’t fit into the male or female genders.  When one is intersex, it means they’re born with a physical sex that isn’t classified as male or female.

Trans oppression is not experienced by non-binary people
Non-binary people experience more discrimination and violence in some circumstances, as they would have negativity coming from both cisgender and binary transgender communities.  This means less of a support system for non-binary folks as well as fewer safe places.  You can become a better ally to non-binary people by insisting on including them whenever the topic of gender arises.  You can be a part of the change that needs to happen in order for everyone to realize they matter just as much as anyone else.

Being a Better Trans Ally: Gender Pronouns

Many of us are so used to having conversations that involve a limited amount of pronouns that we take for granted (he/she, his/her, they/theirs) because (when speaking English) we must assign a gender when we’re speaking about one person.  We need to understand that others, particularly trans people, ask to be referred to by different pronouns than we might assume we should use.

Singular pronouns such as “ze” and “hir” are the more common new ones for those not wishing to use “he” or “she”.  Changing pronouns can be a significant part of coming out as trans.  This can sometimes cause a lot of emotional pain when they’re met with negative responses, even violence.  Here are some major reasons why it is incredibly important to use the correct gender pronouns as a trans ally:

We’re helping shape our culture with language

Language is very powerful and we often take the words we use for granted, passing them off as insignificant, gender pronouns included.  Language spreads more quickly than ever now due to Internet and social media sites.  We are validating and making visible those who wish to be described and identified in a way that doesn’t fit into a strict gender binary.  Using the correct gender pronouns, even when we’re not with our loved one, is important and respectful.

We’re showing respect to their reality

Trans people are often told what’s best for them by doctors, politicians, schools, and anyone else who wants to deny their reality with a gender pronoun or name that invalidates who they really are.  It’s not up to us to decide who they are, but to show them the same respect we would want in life.

Being a Better Trans Ally: Gender Pronouns

We’re holding the media responsible

The media frequently ignores the requests of trans people who state their gender pronoun preference.  Many allies and activists have prompted change in news organizations, leading them to change their protocol on gender pronouns.  It’s important to keep using our voices.

We’re fighting transphobia and sexism

In our culture, it’s seen as bad or wrong to not fit within the male/female binary, acting outside of the gender of which our culture assigns us.  It’s not up to others to assign anything to us — and we need to realize that if we’re not transgender, and bring clarity to the obvious lack of understanding surrounding these cultural differences.  If you support gender equality, you’re playing a big part in walking the talk by being a trans ally.

We’re educating the community

It’s normal for some folks, activists included, to be confused by different pronouns.  It’s important to  learn them and then be patient as we’re educating others.  As allies, if we consistently use terms that are a true reflection of a person’s gender, we’re not only educating by example, we’re encouraging use of the proper terms by others in the community.  If it seems like a lot of work, just remember, it’s completely necessary and worth our attention.


Common Myths about Lesbians Debunked

Are you a lesbian tired of hearing myths about who you are and what you do?

Or, are you just curious and want to dig beneath the surface for some truth? Either way, it’s important to clear up some common misconceptions every once in awhile. Some of them can be quite damaging. Let’s look at some of the more frequent myths:

Lesbians are man-haters
This isn’t true at all. In fact, there are lesbians who love men.  They have long-term friendships with men and might have a man who’s a best friend to them. It’s confusing that this myth is popular at all because it doesn’t make logical sense.

Butch lesbians really want to be men
It’s true that we all express ourselves in different ways and sometimes it happens that women wear clothing or their hair in styles that are more traditionally masculine. It does not follow that women want to be another gender. Those looking to change their sex are transsexual. Sometimes clothing style has little to do with expression and more to do with comfort.

You must sleep with a woman before you know you’re a lesbian
If heterosexuals can know they’re attracted to someone else before sex, the same applies to lesbians, or anyone else for that matter.

If you’re a lesbian this means you’re attracted to all women
Bogus. This is a myth where anyone’s concerned. Apply it to yourself. Are you attracted to everyone of a specific group?

Being a lesbian is a choice
There have been numerous types of therapies attempting to get people to “become” straight that are not only ineffective, but downright damaging. Studies have shown that sexual orientation isn’t chosen and that it’s an inborn trait.

Lesbians relationships are about sex
Not true. Lesbian relationships are often multi-faceted, involving families and emotional connections as well as sex.

Lesbians just haven’t found ‘the right man’
If anything, many lesbians haven’t found the right woman yet.  Just as in any type of relationship, it takes some time to find the right partner. Lesbians aren’t interested in finding the right man because they’re attracted to women. It seems simple enough, but a lot of people find that difficult to swallow.

You know a lesbian when you see her
You might, in fact, have a decent intuition or “gaydar”, but this is not something that can be measured in any definite way just by looking at someone.

One partner plays “the man” in a lesbian relationship
Sometimes the dynamics of a same sex relationship make it seem easier to assume that male/female roles are being played, but it’s not the case.  There are a lot of different kinds of lesbian relationships, butch/femme being one, but that doesn’t mean that one person is pretending to be a man.

Lesbians can’t be religious or spiritual
There are some churches that are accepting of all humans, and spirituality is a subjective experience. Unfortunately, there are some denominations that would think lesbians are living in sin.




Neutral Gender Embraced by University of Vermont

Recently, the University of Vermont acknowledged a third gender option: “neutral”, according to a report from The New York Times. They have agreed to allow students to “select their own identity” in a few ways which include:

  • Choosing a pronoun for themselves that will be entered into the campus information system.
  • Having the option to be referred to by name only if they do not want a pronoun used.
  • Selecting to change their first name, even if it’s not legally acknowledged.

Neutral Gender Embraced by University of Vermont

This system makes it easier for transgender or genderqueer students, saving them from possible embarrassment and confusion.  Vermont is a leader in validating a third gender, ahead of colleges across the U.S. facing concerns related to transitioning students.  These changes did not come without serious effort.  According to The New York Times, it took “nearly a decade of lobbying”, which included a task force of administrators, students and faculty.  Adding gender-neutral options to the information system cost approximately $80,0000 in staff labor.

Gender identity exists along a spectrum that includes a number of ways in which an individual may want to identify, not only male/female.  The existing contrast of the two genders more commonly acknowledged is so much a part of our society that even those who want to make the most profound changes are effectively trying to stretch out the definitions of “male” and “female”.

We might be used to using two gender labels to define ourselves, but an increasing number of people are open to the idea of including more than two options.  This is demonstrated on social media and dating sites such as Facebook and OkCupid.  Next to “female” and “male’, there’s now a tab that lets one choose “custom”.  Approximately 50 options are available, including “pangender”, “androgyne”, “agender”, and “trans person”.  Privacy settings can also be adjusted according to the user’s preference. Hopefully this will be the beginning of much overdue progress in the way of gender identity.


Healthcare Reform: The Benefits and Drawbacks for Transgender Persons

As we enter the second annual application window for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly known as “Obamacare,” it’s worth discussing the needs of members of the LGBT community and how have they been aided or not aided as the case may be overall by the role out of ACA.

Before we begin it’s important to acknowledge that there was by and large nowhere to go but up for transgender persons in healthcare, both on gender specific and general care. The obvious and most extensively discussed benefit is the ban on discrimination, which includes sexual and gender identity built in to the ACA.

“The question is, what is gender identity nondiscrimination?” said Kellan Baker, associate director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress. “Does it mean you can’t hang up the phone on a trans person? Does it mean that you can’t cover their cervical cancer treatments unless [a policyholder is] listed female? Does it mean that transition care has to be covered?”

Healthcare Reform: The Benefits and Drawbacks for Transgender PersonsThese choices unfortunately have thus far been left up to the states. In making seriously life decisions it is important to familiarize yourself with your individual state’s protections for gender identity. A mere six states have formerly stated intent to interpret the gender-identity nondiscrimination provision to mean coverage of transition-related care. Those states are California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont and Connecticut.

The concern, beyond the coverage of transitional care is the bigger issue of treatment of a person who’s presented or physical gender does not match the selected gender on the policy holder’s form. Why does this have anything to do with the ACA? It’s alarmingly simple. Through the ACA, in general, single persons making under 400% of the federal poverty line, qualify for credits towards insurance. However the gender selection on the application must match the gender selected on the applicant’s social security card. Which enters you in to a gigantic catch 22: if these do not match you can be denied treatment, but if you have not fully transitioned you can be denied gender specific treatments in most states.

“It’s happening a lot more now because so many more people have insurance,” says Dr. Robert Winn, medical director of Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia, the city’s only community health center focused on the needs of the LGBT population. “Now, a trans man will come in and get their annual gym[ecological] exam, but it might get rejected because they’ll say, ‘This is a male and this diagnosis and the procedure code is female, so were not going to pay for it,’” he said.

Beyond being in detailed communication with your doctor, Transequality.org is coordinating filing of complaints and other instances of conflicts and discrimination of services. Ultimately it is easier than ever as a transgender person to receive health coverage, but still presents challenges it is important to be aware of going in to any healthcare situation, and be your own advocate.

Breastfeeding Coach is a Transgender Man

Breastfeeding Coach is a Transgender Man

La Leche League Canada, part of the international breast feeding organization, was approached in 2012 by a transgender man who wanted to become a coach (TheStar.com). Trevor MacDonald had learned how to breastfeed his own newborn baby, a son, and was inspired to help others. MacDonald was floored however when his local chapter denied him, saying that only women were allowed to be coaches. What they had told him was, “Since an LLLC leader is a mother who breastfed a baby, a man cannot become an LLLC leader.” MacDonald was taking hormone therapy to become a man but quit when he found out he was pregnant in 2010.

Bemoaning his rejection on his blog, breast feeding advocates along with the LGBTQ community sprang into action. Both groups argued that this was discrimination and that the idea of parenthood shouldn’t be defined by such rigid gender definitions. Over a year later from his original interview, La Leche League International agreed dropping all definitions of gender from its application process. The Canadian chapter soon followed suit.  A spokesman for LLLC International, Diana West, said in a statement, “It was thought that only women could breastfeed. Once it became clear it wasn’t as straightforward as that, the policy had to change.”

This was the first time in 58 years that the organization dealt with such a case. Said West, “We’re just trying to be on the right side of history. Yes, we took a year to do it, but we did it in a way that was fair and unequivocal.” MacDonald himself was elated saying, “It’s really great. It doesn’t only open up opportunities to who can volunteer, but it sends a really clear message that La Leche League wants to support all kinds of families, and anyone who wants to breastfeed.” It pays to mention that Canada has a national human rights act which the organization had to fall in under. Still, it didn’t take a lawsuit to make this pivot. LLLC also portrays itself as a “nondiscriminatory service organization.” LLLC is starting to accept that family has a different connotation today than it did traditionally, and that that’s okay.

Health promoter at Toronto’s LGBTQ Parenting Network, Andy Inkster, said that, “It’s not La Leche League doing it on their own. They’re recognizing a shift in the broader culture.” Though MacDonald was initially disappointed by the group’s decision he kept in close contact with them. In fact, MacDonald wrote a tip sheet for transgender parents interested in approaching LLLC. Still, there is much more work to be done. The verbiage the group uses, such as “mother-to-mother support” is still outdated. MacDonald says of this, “This one change affects a lot of language they use all over the place. I still think there are a lot of updates they can make.”