Action Steps YOU Can Take to Improve Trans Folks’ Access to Healthcare

We’ve written a lot about the importance of ensuring access to health services for trans folk, and of the discrimination they often face when trying to access said services. And a few weeks ago, a new study by youth advocate Neha Sood was released on the health hurdles transgender women and men, and gender non-conforming people, face in Asia.

Given the information presented in that report, it seems as good a time as any to ask ourselves, as feminists, as trans and cis gender people, as gender non-conforming people, as SRRH advocates, and as allies in a movement for better access to health and rights for all, what can I do about this systematic denial of healthcare to an entire community of people? How can I help ensure access to health services for transgender men and women, in Asia and around the world?

As Sood points out, “Urgent as well as long-term sustainable action needs to be taken in order to protect, promote and fulfil transgender people’s rights, as well as empower them to access these.” She’s worked with IWHC to produce a list of actions that can be taken by members of the general public (that’s most of us!), state governments, and donor agencies, to help address some of the access problems she outlines in the original report. A few samples of action steps she recommend folks like me and you take right now:

“Build understanding on gender, sexualities, sexual and reproductive rights and the links with all human rights, including on transgender issues, and educate society on the same. This would include dispensing with binary thinking about gender, as well as sexual hierarchies.”

“Ensure that our own organizations, networks and partnerships have affirmative and non-discriminative policies, including for transgender women and men and gender non-conforming people.”

Click here for the whole list, and pass it on to anyone you think has the power to change our reality- that is, everyone you know!

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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  • Alex

    This is an awful situation. It twists together all the various issues trans people have with the medical community. I recently watched this vlogger talking about how happy she was to be accepted by Kaiser Permanente because several other providers had turned her away. In context, it was kind of depressing to see a perfectly healthy young person be overjoyed about getting accepted for insurance.

  • Sara

    Basic, practical Things you can Do:

    First, imagine waking up tomorrow with the wrong body, the wrong chemistry, static between your brain and body, and no one will call you by your correct name or gender…in fact, they tell you it’s all in your head and that you are either wrong or crazy. Five bonus points if you also imagine yourself a scared, unsure teen just hitting puberty whose body is betraying him or her. From that vantage point, read on…

    -Spread the word far and wide that it is NOT a sin to be trans. This fallacy hurts us more than anything else worldwide. Most Christians are sadly ignorant about what their own primary text says regarding our existence and how they should accept us, not persecute us. Yeah, it means wallowing in religious beliefs, but those mistaken beliefs are getting us killed.

    -Tell the AMA or the FDA to legitimize our use of Testosterone and Estrogen. Any day a hater politician could push for all off-label uses of prescription drugs to be banned and we would be screwed. For many of us T or E are what finally gave us our first peace of mind since puberty. Getting drug companies to put us on the label will help trans people worldwide.

    -Help find ways to fund clinic grants for trans men and women that cannot afford even the most basic treatment. For that matter, help us find ways to give them the same pathetic shot at employment as everyone else. That includes education, but almost all of it pertains to what we are NOT. Once you dispense with that, we’re just people.

    -Tell your employer to tell their health care insurer to cover trans treatments like the above mentioned hormones, and include surgery when needed. You know, like the AMA told them to do back in 2007, or like Canada and other countries have done for years. We’re near the bottom for first world nations in trans care. The City of San Francisco accidentally proved that covering us does not increase cost.

    -Tell the insurance companies that being trans is not grounds for refusal to insure or for dropping coverage. Or for not covering even non-trans related costs.

    -Push for your state/province/territory to enact the same protections that California, USA did. No, they don’t always make a difference, but it does give us something from a legal standpoint.

    -Now, this one’s a biggie: Push for trans treatment worldwide to be shifted from being treated primarily as a mental disease to being treated as a physical one. In the US (and any international health agencies that follow the AMA’s and APA’s little black books) , the AMA’s insurance codes will work just as good as those from the APA. Problem is, the shrinks have been in charge of our “care” for decades and have failed to “cure” us, though they keep trying, often causing great harm. Doctors and pharmacists on the other hand, need psychiatrist’s permission to do the actual healing. Most countries still follow that model because the US does. It’s backwards, outdated and it hurts us.

    -Push schools to teach and train about trans conditions…in an accurate and non-judgemental way, please. This should include medical schools too, not just primary and secondary. Far too many doctors have no clue how to treat our condition, we often have to educate them and tell them where to look for basics such as dosages (see the off-label problem, above).

    -Get basic research funded for people other than psychiatrists trying to eradicate us.

    -Finally, if you do nothing else, help us push for local and non-local cultural change so that parents, priests and physicians recognize and respect childrens’ self affirmed sex and gender. That alone would make more of a difference than just about anything else. If they grow up unashamed, they will be in a better position to fix everything else both internal to themselves and in their own legal, religious and medical establishments.