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Challenges to Transgender Patients

Despite the recent attention to the issues of transgender people, the level of discrimination against them is still incredibly high. This discrimination manifests in all facets of life, from employment to housing and even healthcare. This paper will provide an outlook on the discrimination that transgender people face in the field of healthcare.

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The term “transgender” encompasses all people who do not identify with the gender they were born with. Statistics show that transgender people experience clear discrimination when trying to gain healthcare. In fact, it is cited as the second most common type of discrimination and the first if miscellaneous discrimination is excluded. This is a major issue as the statistics show that transgender people are at a higher risk of suicide and HIV. The situation has gotten so poor that transgender people often expect to be discriminated against when attempting to gain healthcare.

Despite transgender people being established as a distinct group for more than half a century, there is almost no policy in place that could provide them with legal protection against discrimination. As of 2013, only 13 states and the District of Columbia had any legal protection for transgender or gender-variant people. The socioeconomic conditions of many transgender people also affect the level of their discrimination, as many live in low-income areas with low education attainment. The current level of training and availability of transgender-friendly services is low, which often leads to transgender people seeking help from places that discriminate against them (Bradford, Reisner, Honnold & Xavier, 2013).

The types of discrimination differ in their severity from person to person. One of the most common types of discrimination lies in the insensitive or hostile behavior of the medical provider. This can range from unpleasant conversation to complete refusal of healthcare. A study on the different responses to transgender people in the healthcare industry found this to be relatively common. In 20.9% of cases, transgender people are met with harsh language. In 20.3% the physicians blamed them for their problems. 15% of cases resulted in physicians refusing to touch them or providing excessive precautions, and in 7.8% of cases, the treatment was physically rough and abusive to the patient.

The high unemployment rates among transgender people often leave them without stable health insurance. This fact severely limits their healthcare options and further increases the chances of discrimination. According to a study, one in four transgender people in the United States is refused healthcare after disclosing that they are transgender. A different study of healthcare experiences of people living with HIV and LGBT people shows that 70% of 397 transgender people have experienced some form of discrimination when seeking out healthcare. This percentile is almost 20% higher than the number of LGB people who experienced healthcare discrimination and slightly higher than people who live with HIV (Poteat, German & Kerrigan, 2013).

Even when the medical provider is willing to provide help, they often lack education on transgender care and need to gain education from their patients to provide competent care. A survey of 6000 transgender and gender non-conforming people found that more than 50% of the responders had to teach their physicians on how to address the needs of the transgender people (Poteat, German & Kerrigan, 2013).


The challenges that transgender people experience in their daily lives are severe. It is highly unfortunate that even in the field of professional healthcare they are unable to receive an equal and dignified treatment. Hopefully, better training will be provided to the medical staff in the future to prevent such discrimination.

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Bradford, J., Reisner, S., Honnold, J., Xavier J. (2013). Experiences of transgender-related discrimination and implications for health: Results from the Virginia Transgender Health Initiative Study. American Journal of Public Health, 103(10), 1820-1829.

Poteat, T., German, D., & Kerrigan, D. (2013). Managing uncertainty: A grounded theory of stigma in transgender health care encounters. Social Science & Medicine, 84, 22-29.

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