SEATTLE — As Transgender Awareness Week leads up to the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20, Swedish Health Services is taking on the issue of proper transgender medical care. A recent survey revealed that half of all transgender patients had to teach their providers how to give gender-affirming care.
“(It’s) just mind-blowing,” said Dr. Kevin Wang with Swedish First Hill. “It's the same as if someone who has high blood pressure having to teach their provider how to prescribe counseling and diet and exercise and medications.
“This is a time in history when transgender visibility is at an all-time high, and despite the increased visibility, the transgender community has been underserved. Medicine just didn't really keep up.”
It’s a problem that piles on top of the transphobic behavior transgender people receive in other parts of their lives, something that Vinny Fox (they/them pronouns), a patient service coordinator at Richmond Beach Clinic has seen first-hand from both perspectives.
“I have been very fortunate,” they said. “Most of my coworkers have known me before I transitioned – I came out three years ago – so they've been with me through the entire thing and I've gotten nothing but support.
“But at the same time, I've had to educate my coworkers, including the providers, the doctors, about certain things: what non-binary means as I'm a non-binary transgender person, the importance of pronouns, sex versus gender versus sexuality. Having to teach my coworkers has really opened my eyes to the amount of gaps in knowledge and health care as a patient.”
Fox has used their experiences to try to prevent what happened to them from happening to others, and Swedish is on board with educating its staff on how to properly care for transgender people.
“Our Swedish residency programs at First Hill and Cherry Hill I feel are really helping to lead the way in training our future family physicians and providing gender-affirming healthcare,” Wang said. “As a result of the work we've done at our residency program at First Hill, Swedish and the Swedish Foundation are investing in a new project. We're calling Swedish's LGBTQI+ Initiative.
“We're doing current data assessments and research to find opportunities to better serve our gender-diverse communities by helping to improve access to our health care providers who currently offer our gender-affirming health care and services and some surgical procedures.”
Transgender Day of Remembrance is an opportunity to mourn the victims of transphobic violence and advocate for justice. Nearly 40 transgender people have been killed this year, most of them trans women of color.
“There’s lots of things you can do,” Fox said of supporting the transgender community. “You can donate to organizations that support the trans community. There's Lambert House, the Trevor Project all of them do great work. You can go online and educate yourself about transgender issues and identities. There's a lot of information and it's better for you to go educate yourself.”