Data Documents Severe Healthcare Discrimination Targeting Trans Americans

FILE PHOTO: Cruz, an ER technician at Valley Medical Center in Renton, donates convalescent plasma at Bloodworks Northwest for an experimental treatment study during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Seattle
Trans people are facing significant discrimination in helathcare settings, which has made individuals reluctant to go to the doctor.
Reuters/ Lindsey Wasson

New data shows transgender Americans are continuing to face widespread discrimination in the healthcare system, underscoring the dangers of the Trump administration’s actions to strip healthcare protections from queer individuals.

The striking findings were drawn from a report conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National LGBTQ Task Force, which surveyed 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming people.

The report revealed that nearly one-fifth, or 20 percent, of trans or gender non-conforming people have reported they were refused care outright due to their gender identity.

National Center for Trans Equality, Task Force report captures experience of nearly 6,500 respondents

The survey also found that 28 percent of survey participants said discrimination and disrespect forces them to postpone medical care when they fall sick or get injured. On a related question, 28 percent also said they faced harassment in medical offices or facilities, which backs up past accounts of individuals describing hostile treatment from everyone ranging from front desk staff to doctors.

The experience at the doctor’s office is often an exhausting one for trans and gender non-conforming individuals because of a lack of cultural competency, the study found. A whopping 50 percent of respondents said they had to teach their doctors about trans-related care, clearly demonstrating the need for more comprehensive and inclusive training of medical professionals.

“Finding doctors who will treat, prescribe, and even look at you like a human being rather than a thing has been problematic,” one unnamed survey respondent said. “[I] have been denied care by doctors and major hospitals so much that I now use only urgent care physician assistants, and I never reveal my gender history.”

A majority of trans people who responded to the survey said they have been able to access transition-related care in some form, but the extent of that care appears to be limited. Though a majority of respondents said they wanted to complete gender confirmation surgery, only a minority said they had done so.

The importance of adequate healthcare for trans individuals is even greater considering that 2.64 percent said they are living with HIV, compared to 0.6 percent of the general population. More than 15 percent of respondents who have engaged in sex work are HIV-positive.

The survey also measured the impact of transgender Americans’ healthcare marginalization on their emtional well-being. More than 25 percent of respondents said they have abused drugs or alcohol in order to cope with the discrimination they have face. And a staggering 41 percent said they have attempted suicide.

Release of this data coincides with a federal court ruling on August 17 granting a preliminary injunction that blocks, for now, the Trump administration’s rule gutting an Obama-era regulation banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity in healthcare. The judge stressed in his ruling that the Human Rights Campaign and its attorneys would likely succeed on the merits of their assertion that the Trump rule was inconsistent with the sex discrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act and that the federal Department of Health and Human Services was “arbitrary and capricious” in finalizing it just days ahead of the June 15 Supreme Court ruling that ensured that discrimination against individuals because of their gender identity would be deemed “necessarily discrimination because of sex.”

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