Experiencing Health Care Discrimination as a Nonbinary Person

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By Charlie McNabb

I’ve known I was genderqueer since I was very young. When I was four, my parents told me boys had penises and girls had vaginas. I asked if there was a penis-vagina, because I was a boy-girl. They laughed and said “no.”

I tried to push the feelings I had about who I was away, because I believed the adults in my life and thought they were correct. It wasn’t until I was 26 that I met another genderqueer lesbian and could have discussions about how I related to my body.

But while as an adult I’ve come to know and understand who I am, when I seek medical care I still encounter resistance, and outright discrimination, about my identity from medical providers.

Sometimes this shows up in small ways. For instance, most medical forms offer no recognition of nonbinary identities – just two boxes, one for female and one for male. When I don’t choose one of the boxes, they choose one for me. When I create my own, they ignore it.

Likewise, clinics that focus on reproductive care usually have names like “Women’s Health.” I have dysphoria about this kind of care anyway, and those names only heighten it. But my insurance only covers certain places, and usually it’s one of those.

Sometimes the discrimination I experience as a genderqueer person is more serious, though. I sought care recently at a trans clinic in Portland. I’m body-literate, and the provider I saw, who was not transgender, said I was the first transgender person she met who knew the difference between cervical fluid and arousal fluid and the first who wanted to keep their cervix (despite the fact that I know plenty of transgender men who like their cervixes).

The tone she took implied that a “real” transgender person wouldn’t have been aware of what was happening in that part of their body. This provider wouldn’t approve my hysterectomy because she said I didn’t have enough gender dysphoria, but she never asked me about my dysphoria. This was especially upsetting because she seemed to think I shouldn’t experience pleasure in my body, that I should be upset and sad all time.

This was a doctor who seemed well-versed in binary transgender health care, but wholly unfamiliar with nonbinary patients. Sadly, this isn’t uncommon.

I’ve had providers who have been outright dismissive of my identity. In one case, a person I saw misgendered me. When I corrected them, sharing my correct pronoun, they ignored me and continued misgendering me, even though I saw that they heard me.

Doctors and medical providers need training around this issue. Even specialists in transgender health care seem totally unfamiliar with nonbinary identities. I have had good experiences with medical professionals, but even then, I’ve carried the burden of educating of the people I paid to see. In fact, there’s never been a case in which I haven’t had to do that.

It’s time for that to change. It’s time for nonbinary people like myself to be believed and to receive the medical care we need and deserve.

2017-10-16T19:25:42+00:00 October 16th, 2017|Featured, News|0 Comments

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