Transgender Voices: Gender Policing

by emilycao on April 24, 2014 - 12:29am

In Transgender Voices: Beyond Women and Men published in 2008, Lori B. Girshick gathered the confessions of 150 transgender people and recounts their stories through various topics. This book gives a good insight on the life of transsexuals by presenting how they deal with their coming out, bullying, relationships, policies and more.

Ever since my post on transsexuals facing problems with doctors, I’ve focused my articles on this particular topic; health services for transgender people. I chose to read the chapter “Gender Policing” from the book Transgender Voices in the hopes to learn more about the health system and how its policies deal with transgender people. A section in the chapter was dedicated to medical care, but I was also surprised when I read about other trans-discriminatory policies that they had to cope with in their everyday life, such as bathroom policies and legal documentation.

In the section “Medical Gatekeeping”, the author talks about difficulties transsexuals encounter when seeking medical services. Treatments and surgeries are often a necessity for these people to feel at ease with themselves. However, because doctors and therapists are not well informed about transgender issues, they view these cares as superficial or optional. This contributes to insensitive and stigmatizing behaviours against transgender people. An example of injustice is that people with hormonal imbalances have insurance coverage for their medication and hormonal prescriptions, but insurance does not cover transgender people’s medical need for hormone replacement therapy. Before the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association was updated in 1994, it described transsexualism as a “gender identity disorder” and cross-dressing as a sexual fetish. These definitions contributed to the belief that transgender and gender-variant people were ill. In the mid-1960s, experimental and research-oriented gender identity clinics opened in the United States. At that time, therapists believed that well-adjusted people (not homeless, unemployed, suicidal or drug-addicted) could not be transgender, and therefore couldn’t receive surgeries or hormones. This prevented many transsexuals to access proper treatments. Nowadays, doctors depend on the Standards of Care (SOC) when providing care to transgender people. In 2001, the latest updates on the SOC mention that gender dysphoria is not something to be “cured”, which contributes to end the belief of transsexualism being a disorder.

A lot of information that I read in this section were similar to those that I found in the article “The State of Transgender Health Care: Policy, Law, and Medical Frameworks” from the American Journal of Public Health. This article was very useful as a start for my research paper on transgender people and the health system. My readings from the book contributed to reinforce the information found in the article. Reading the chapter on gender policing, and especially the section “Medical Gatekeeping” really informed me on injustices and discrimination that transgender people could face with the medical system. I realised that they had to suffer incomprehension for a very long time before transsexualism was not considered as an illness. Since I hope to find ways to improve transgender people’s access to health care for my research paper, I will probably do more research on the SOC and I also expect to find more updates in favour of transsexuals.

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