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Transgender People and Healthcare Barriers


In recent years, the LGBTQ community has been the subject of increasing attention in the United States. Nevertheless, it suffers from significant discrimination and unresolved issues, particularly in healthcare. As a result, people who belong to the group, especially transgender ones, tend to have worse access to care than the average persons with the same circumstances would. The matter is concerning, as members of the LGBTQ community can be vulnerable and suffer from physical and mental health issues more often than usual due to the stress of their daily lives. This essay aims to explain the barriers that prevent transgender people from receiving quality care and suggest improvements that can be implemented in current medical institutions.

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Medical Needs of Transgender People

Transgender people tend to face discrimination in a variety of aspects of their daily lives, a trait that influences their health negatively. According to Watkinson and Sunderland (2017), many of the issues that appear among members of the community more often than usual are of a mental nature. The daily stress of their lives can lead to depression, self-harm, substance abuse, and possibly suicide. The dangerous lifestyle suggested by these conditions can lead to further complications, mainly sexually transmitted diseases. The treatment of most of these concerns requires the close attention of a qualified specialist who the transgender person can trust completely. As such, it is likely that an unfavorable opinion of the healthcare system contributes significantly to the likelihood of the concerns surfacing.

Discrimination by Medical Professionals

Numerous people still hold prejudice or outdated opinions about transgender people. Healthcare workers are no exception, and their situation is likely exacerbated by the need to interact with the patient closely. Watkinson and Sunderland (2017) note incidents where healthcare providers would refuse care when they learned that the patient was transgender or redirected them to another provider. It is possible that the professionals in question held prejudice against transgender individuals and refused to provide treatment for personal reasons. However, another possible reason is that the providers did not feel qualified to assess the specific health needs of transgender individuals and declined due to concerns over potential adverse outcomes.

The idea is supported by the low representation of transgender-specific needs and approaches in medical education and documentation. According to Watkinson and Sunderland (2017), the community is under-represented in evidence-based practice and medical protocols, which are often based on traditional values and patterns. Educational institutions and courses also have not adapted to the new situation, lacking suitable materials and training courses. While it is possible for the patient to provide the specialist with pertinent information and educate them on the matter, the relationship requires the provider to relinquish some power. Many professionals are not comfortable with altering the interaction in that manner, mainly since the other party is usually not educated about healthcare.

Sentiments among Transgender People

Even when the providers choose to provide treatment to a transgender person, disruptions caused by misunderstandings and disconnect can make the patient feel stigmatized. Paine (2018) identifies four primary patterns of such behavior: disengagement, sorting, denial, and discipline. Some providers may choose to stop engaging the patient to avoid further conflict, which leads the latter to feel isolated. Others may disregard the patient’s identity, challenge it, or chastise them for what they may perceive as an imaginary concern. Overall, transgender people tend to feel isolated and unwelcome in most healthcare environments, though exceptions such as LGBTQ-identified providers exist.

As a consequence, many transgender people who do not have access or are not aware of more positive options can choose to avoid receiving healthcare altogether. As a result, they do not receive treatment for their health concerns as they surface, leading to overall worse outcomes. Furthermore, the health care system remains unaware of their issues due to the lack of contact. As such, few opportunities exist to engage transgender people and convince them to seek care for their issues again. The system requires significant changes to become able to accommodate the needs of the community. In particular, providers need to recognize and accept the existence of transgender people and learn about their specific needs and concerns.

Proposed Changes

The method that should have the highest short-term influence on the popularity of health care among transgender people is an increase in the number of providers who identify as such. These institutions are easy to recognize as friendly to other members of the community, and the specialists would be well acquainted with the specific needs of their patients. However, as there are not enough professionals with the necessary qualifications, it becomes essential to work on the overall image of the system. A transgender person should feel as comfortable when going to the average clinic or hospital as anyone else would. The change in perception requires medical specialists to acquire additional competencies and for a promotional campaign to advertise that fact.

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While transgender needs and concerns should be included in educational curriculums, the country already has a large educated medical workforce that needs to acquire the skills as well. Radix, Meacher, and Sanchez (2015) suggest a training system where the worker learns by interacting with transgender people and caring for them under supervision by a more experienced colleague. While the approach allows for a quick accumulation of practical knowledge, it requires the presence of someone who is qualified to assess the performance of the trainee. Nevertheless, if the logistical issues involved in the notion are resolved, the method should yield significant results.

The changes should be advertised to the transgender community to attract people who have acquired a distrust or fear of the healthcare system. In particular, the promotional effort should concentrate on acknowledging relevant health concerns and opposing discrimination (Wagner, Kunkel, Asbury, and Soto, 2016). It is going to be challenging to address the interests of every transgender person due to their diversity, but the campaign should be an adequate starting point. As cooperation and collaboration between medical specialists and transgender people improve, the perception that the healthcare system is free of discrimination and ambivalence will spread. Then, others may feel encouraged and decide to seek treatment for their concerns as well.


Transgender people can often feel that they are targets of discrimination, particularly with regards to healthcare. Medical professionals can hold personal opinions that make the patients feel stigmatized or lack the competencies necessary to address specific issues adequately. As a result, many transgender people fear or distrust the system and do not receive treatment. An effort to change the situation by training and educating specialists is necessary to address the issue. Furthermore, the internal improvements should be accompanied by a promotional campaign that would attract transgender people back. The suggested approaches should establish a starting point for the further organic development of a positive and beneficial relationship.


Paine, E. A. (2018). What happens during healthcare interactions to compel gender nonconforming LGBTQ people to avoid healthcare? 

Radix, A., Meacher, P., & Sanchez, J. P. (2015). Families, family physicians, and transgender patients. Family Doctor, 3(4), 27-29.

Wagner, P. E., Kunkel, A., Asbury, M. B., & Soto, F. (2016). Health (trans) gressions: Identity and stigma management in trans* healthcare support seeking. Women & Language, 39(1), 49-74.

Watkinson, D., & Sunderland, C. (2017). How discrimination affects access to health care for transgender people. Nursing Times. Web.

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