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Report reveals discrimination against transgender people by health providers

October 15, 2010
by Press Release
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Washington, DC — Transgender and gender non-conforming people face rampant discrimination in healthcare settings, are regularly denied needed care, and experience a range of health risks because they are transgender or gender non-conforming, according to a report of more than 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming people. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey: Report on Health and Health Care was released nationally today by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Key findings include:

• Nearly one in five (19 percent) reported being refused care outright because they were transgender or gender non-conforming.
• Survey participants reported very high levels of postponing medical care when sick or injured due to discrimination and disrespect (28 percent).
• Harassment: 28 percent of respondents were subjected to harassment in medical settings.
• Significant lack of provider knowledge: 50 percent of the sample reported having to teach their medical providers about transgender care.
• Despite barriers, the majority has accessed some form of transition-related medical care, but only a minority has had any surgery, despite the fact that a strong majority stated wanting to have it someday.
• Respondents reported more than four times the national average of HIV infection, 2.64 percent in our sample compared to 0.6 percent in the general population, with rates for transgender women at 3.76 percent, and with those who are unemployed (4.67 percent) or who have engaged in sex work (15.32 percent) even higher.
• Over a quarter of the respondents reported misusing drugs or alcohol specifically to cope with the discrimination they faced due to their gender identity or expression.
• A staggering 41 percent of respondents reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6 percent of the general population.

The report also includes critical public policy recommendations, such as the urgent need to train medical professionals about how to effectively and respectfully treat transgender and gender non-conforming patients; an end to the discriminatory practice of transgender exclusion from healthcare coverage; the development transgender-specific programs to address suicide; the spread of HIV, and other health risks; and increased research that focuses specifically on health needs of the transgender population.

“It is outrageous that basic healthcare is being denied to transgender and gender non-conforming people and that so much additional trauma is being caused by doctors instead of being resolved by doctors. The medical profession must take these data seriously and ensure that everyone in the medical care system knows how to provide transgender-sensitive medical care,” says Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

“Healthcare is a fundamental human right. This study clearly documents that it is regularly being denied to transgender and gender non-conforming people,” says Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “The study also provides information about the serious health impact of the discrimination that transgender people face. The health risks are many times higher for people of color, for those who have lost a job due to bias, and those who were bullied in school.”

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