Most trans people have encountered some form of medical abuse.

During the pandemic, I worried about getting COVID—but worse than that I worried I might have to go to a hospital.

Most trans people have encountered some form of abuse from society, and most have also encountered some from a medical profession. For examples, see here.

Both red, same size, both fruit, but people can sense the difference.

You think you can be treated in a hospital, but you pass so well no one will read you? My years at this, since 1981, with trans people of all kinds, in and out of hospitals, on the streets, in doctors’ offices, in our homes, with family, professionals, or friends…says no, there is no real stealth. People can tell, even if they don’t tell you. I’ve seen patients read by such things as x-rays, blood tests, inserting catheters, voice, overall impression… That thing you may hide out in the real world cannot be hidden from a hospital.

And attempting to hide true anatomy, biology, and/or medical information could cause medical mistakes.

The hospital can also cause medical mistakes if they avoid knowing much about you by following a social movement that says to downplay or avoid trans person sex issues: the transgender paradigm. In such a case, the hospital doctors and nurses may make false assumptions about your anatomy or medical procedures you may need, suggest tests or treatments for undisclosed reasons (I’ve personally experienced this, also), apply incorrect “courtesies” that alienate, make offensive references that alarm the patient, affecting treatment outcome.

This is where the rubber hits the road: Out in the world, making it all about gender role—implying that also means physical sex needs while hiding those physical sex needs—causes enough problems. But in a hospital, it’s clear: sex is not gender, it cannot be hidden, and must be addressed.

Female and Male reproductive systems, genitalia, chromosomes.

In my view, trans person sex and gender truths must be shared with medical personnel.

I tried to talk with my local hospital about this back in 2019, and it didn’t work out well. One administrator was very angry about it. I then talked with the President of the hospital who responded with agreement that we should dig into this—accompanied by a plastic, PR sales pitch, which further convinced me this hospital did not want to deal with it.

I won’t say what hospital it was, but it isn’t relevant as this is a common problem in most hospitals.

But I will say that after two years gentle effort, the hospital finally granted me an audience with upper management, and I shared these and more concerns.

The meeting went—well, on the surface. It was cordial and professional. But it is concerning that it took two years to get the meeting, and I found my message only partially heard.

What may have sunk in, however, was that

  • medical abuse does occur, particularly with people who are an unwanted minority,
  • out of dozens of staff who may be involved with a patient in a hospital stay, it only takes one to traumatize a patient,
  • sometimes medical abuse can also take the form of sexual assault, and
  • not all trans people see these things the same way—what terms mean in the latest social movement, who is transgender, who is transsexual, what pronouns or even the need for that request…may vary.

HOSPITALS, DOCTORS, NURSES, you can help prevent problems with a SIMPLE THING:

A trans patient may come in for treatment with any ailment. She may well have suffered medical abuse before, perhaps sexual assault, or may have had reason to learn distrust at the hands of medical personnel. She may be very compliant and friendly, hoping to engender the best treatment from sometimes-reluctant staff or hoping she won’t be read, but she may nonetheless be afraid, even with a chip on her shoulder.

Why don’t you side-step most of that? Show the patient you are accepting of who they are. You’re not here to fix our broken brain, moralize to us, or fail to be kind because you don’t want to validate what you think is a sinful life. You’re here to help us medically—best done through kindness.

Don’t assume the patient in front of you is anything like what you’ve heard on TV or in a seminar. We trans have many different ways of looking at ourselves, and the popular “transgender” paradigm is actually deemed offensive and oppressive by many of us.

Inquire about a transition if you suspect one, but don’t use the word “transgender,” as some of us find that offensive. Be neutral: “trans person.”

Then ASK how a patient identifies, and REPEAT those same words to the patient. It only takes a few seconds, and the doing of that helps the patient know s/he’s been heard, confirms willingness to comply, can put the patient at ease—

—and, just as importantly, I’ve learned that people who really don’t like trans issues usually won’t want to speak the actual words. Even if they try to eek them out for these few seconds, it usually shows on their face. Instead, they usually answer with some variation of an evasive, “Okay,” or “Oh, yes. I accept you as you are, and you’ll get quality treatment here. We treat everyone with the same excellent care.” They said they accept…equality…care…but they just don’t say the actual words.

As a patient, I want to know this, and my response is to find a better doctor or nurse. As far as I can see, all hospitals do have those treatment staff who really don’t like us and also those who are better. They’re as human as others in society, and prejudice can carry across professions, degrees, or an otherwise nature of kindness.

I find there to be a problem for me in accepting a treatment “professional” who doesn’t know or doesn’t like what I am.

Only you can decide for yourself.


Posted by:Jenna Ware

Widow of Joseph F. Ware Jr., Dept. Mgr. Engineering Flight Test, Skunk Works, Lockheed (2 Air Force Ones, U-2, SR-71...); former NSA, NSOC, NSGA, Ft. Meade, MD; former forensic psychiatric social worker, MSW, LCSW; pilot, ATP/CFI; co-founder Ware Lab, Virginia Tech; asking for equality for all, including our sexuality; transsexual, 1981; author of "Shadow Life," sharing dangers of hiding trans person sexuality so others don't make the same mistakes I did.

Leave a Reply