Transgender People’s Problem with Doctors

by emilycao on February 19, 2014 - 9:16am

Transgender people are faced with confusion over their self-identity starting from a young age. This feeling of not identifying with its own body leads to a journey towards self-acceptance, journey that often encounters hardships. Only when transgender people are sure of their self-identification and accept their new self can they open up to the world about their new gender in the hopes of being accepted. How do you feel, however, when the people that you must trust in order to be able to change sex refuse you? Not only is it already hard to come to terms with being transgender, now you must face another challenge of being accepted by the only people who can help you become who you truly are. In Montreal, this is a problem that Chase Ross and many other transgender people faced when wanting to be treated. In the meantime, a new ban in Thailand prohibits teen castration for those who want to become a woman.


In the article “Transgender people face strife at the doctor’s office: Complaints include insensitive, unnecessary questions and denied treatments” posted on October 10, 2013 on the CBC News website, author Morgan Dunlop talks about Chase Ross’ story, a female-to-male transgender. When visiting the doctor’s office, Ross was often asked embarrassing questions on his sexuality, name change and genitals, which was irrelevant according to him. One off his worst experience during his sex change process was when he was refused by a psychiatrist. Ross needed help immediately, but she refused to give him treatment saying that she didn’t know how to deal with trans-related things. According to Gabrielle Bouchard, an advocacy worker with Concordia University’s Centre for Gender Advocacy, it is not uncommon for transgender people to deal with similar encounters with medical professionals. Another complaint from transgender people is that these professionals often refuse to address their patient as the gender they identify with, which can be hurtful. Dr. Shuvo Ghosh, head of the Gender Variance Program at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and member of the McGill University teaching faculty, says that doctors feel uncomfortable with transgender people as there is little sensitivity training for them when it comes to transsexualism. He adds that prejudices on transgender people overcome judgments, which is why they don’t get adequate health care.


In the meantime, in the article “Thailand eyes ban on teen castration” published by the Edmonton Journal on August 10, 2008, Paiboon Marvin, a female transgender, faces the same problem of being refused treatment at the doctor’s office, but not for the same reason. At 16 years old, he wants to have his testicles removed as a step to becoming a woman. However, the procedure may be outlawed for non-adults after gay rights activists pressured the government by saying that teenagers could regret it later. Before the ban, any male in Thailand could be castrated for around $150. Many doctors, who perform more than a thousand castrations and sex-change operations per year, don’t agree with the ban and believe that surgery is an essential treatment for those who have gender identity disorder. Thailand is recognized as having one of the world’s largest transsexual communities; there are about 180,000 transgender people among a population of 66 million. The country is in majority Buddhist and the religion’s teachings say that people can be reincarnated as males or females, which is why transsexualism is accepted. A Thai word, Kathoeys or ladyboys, exists to describe male-to-female transgender people. Thailand is also where “Miss Tiffany’s Universe”, the largest transsexual beauty pageant, takes place. The Kampang School even built unisex toilets when it was found that 200 out of 2,600 of the high school students were transsexual. Even though doctors are on the teenagers’ side, people agreeing with the ban believe that teenagers could regret the operation later if they do it at a young age. This happened to Noon, who changed sex at 19 years old. After the operation, she started feeling that maybe it was wrong and that she wasn’t ready for it. When she tried to dress as a man again, she wasn’t successful.


A new journal that started in 2014 named TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly has as a main topic transsexualism. This relates to the news articles since the main issue that is talked about is acceptance of transgender people. The journal currently published only one volume, so another journal that might be interesting is The Journal of Sex Research. It publishes on a variety of disciplines involved in the scientific study of sexuality. One of the subjects covered by this journal is gender studies which is relevant to the issue since transgender people deal with identifying with the wrong gender. Gender and sexuality Studies is a discipline studying gender identity, the meanings of “male” and “female” and sexual norms. It discusses how society’s perception of gender and sexuality is influenced by racism, homophobia, transphobia, differences between races, cultures, ethnicities and others. A sub-discipline is the LGBT Studies or Queer Studies that is specified in sexual orientation and gender identity. These disciplines relates to the issue of transgender people since they all deal with gender identity and society’s perception of gender norms.


Overall, I believe that people are becoming more and more open-minded with homosexuality, but transsexualism is still a subject that is not much heard about which is why people are less comfortable with. In order that transgender people are more accepted, it is important to understand that they identify with another gender. Everyone, doctors included, should thus encourage transgender people to become more comfortable with their new self, even if it means to receive treatment.


This post made me think of an issue I hadn’t considered before. I was originally drawn into this post because LGBT rights have been an issue of focus in the media; it is very interesting to see a more medical view of the issue. I am going into Nursing and want to specialize in psychiatry, therefore this article was especially interesting to see how transgendered people are having problems with the medical staff. It would be interesting to look further into the issue to see if there have been a few isolated incidents that made it into the media or if this is a recurring problem. I think medical staff must not be receiving the proper training to deal with transsexuals because there are so few of them in the United States. I also thought it was very interesting how it is more common in Thailand to go forward with the surgery, and how the doctors have a different view on the patients. I think it is necessary for the medical professionals in the United States to receive more training on what is appropriate to say and how to act while having a transsexual as a patient.

This is such an interesting topic and I am happy that you have made an article about it. Seeing the different perspectives and viewpoints and cultures when it comes to Gender and Sex are so interesting. First, I wish that Gender and Sex were not used as interchangeably. Gender is a social construct based on a group of emotional, behavioral and cultural characteristics attached to a person’s assigned gender (Trevor Project, 2014).One's biological sex is all about genitalia, hormone levels, genetics, chromosomes, etc. it really has nothing to do with the person in terms of how they feel or who they actually are and identify. Please be careful to note that when saying someone who is identifying as Transgender or another gender variant identity, that person has always been that identity, where the problem lies is the social pressures of having to be "perfect" in terms of how one behaves and live up to others expectations of them because of their assigned sex at birth. I am also rather apprehensive when using the term Gender Identity Disorder (GID) as that has such negative connotations to it. Someone who identifies outside of their societies traditional constructions of gender does not have any assortment of mental or psychological disturbance. Where one gets "psychologically disturbed" is when one is not able to truly express themselves and be socialized comfortably as they identify.
Gender is an extremely touchy topic as it is something that has been constructed for our own understanding of our environment and for absolute control. In New York State, which is on the northeast side of the United States, there is no protections for individuals who identify as Transgender or Queer as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) has not been passed, yet. It is at the moment in the branch of government called Congress, moving through the various branches and waiting to be passed as GENDA would extend the New York State Human Rights Law to ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression as well. Similarly, it would add gender identity and expression to these same categories already included in New York’s hate crimes law (Empire State Pride Agenda, 2014).
It is interesting to me, that I noted that even in a more spiritual place like Thailand, there is still some dissonance when it comes to someone identifying differently than the sex and gender they were assigned at birth. Though, the violence rate may be lower towards people who identify as Transgender than the United States. I like perspectives on issues. Another perspective is that I think it is nice that there is concern for someone who identifies differently than the sex and gender they were assigned at birth since someone people may regret their confirmation surgery. However, I think if people who identified as Transgender, Queer, or another gender variant identity, were honored and seen as something wonderful and special rather than something awful and putrid, I believe that human beings can then begin to breathe a bit easier to understand, fully, who they are. There is so much dissonance, and hate in the world along with social pressures to be what others want you to be for their own benefit, that the humanity of treating each other with compassion, understanding, and acceptance gets lost in the haze of societal constructions of organized thought.

About the author