While society is beginning to become more aware of the existence of trans and non-binary people, the medical field still has issues with cisnormative language, especially in reproductive care.
Even at SIUE, a university that will take every opportunity to tell you how accepting they are of LGBTQ+ students, still has issues of cissexism in its health clinic. Both Counselling Services and ACCESS have, in my experience, been very gender inclusive, good about asking for pronouns and avoiding cisnormative language. However, I’ve recently noticed on the Health Service website that their reproductive care, such as contraceptives and pelvic exams, is still labeled as “Women’s Health.” Not everyone who needs gynecological care is a woman and I’m disappointed that they haven’t changed their terminology to reflect that.
I was assigned female at birth, but as a non-binary person, I don’t feel comfortable being called a woman. At times it even makes me dysphoric [discomfort caused by the discrepancy between one’s identity and their assigned gender at birth]. Since I’m someone who needs what this university calls “women’s health,” it feels pretty alienating that they box reproductive care into such binary categories. I can imagine it’s even worse for trans men. Due to that label, I don’t know if my identity or pronouns will be accepted if I were to make one of those appointments.
It may seem trivial or silly, but these kinds of concerns are extremely common among trans people. Trying to get any sort of medical care as a trans person is exhausting. You have to navigate around things like your deadname being on insurance, trying to figure out if it will be safe for you to disclose your identity to your healthcare provider and potentially having to find a new one if you make the wrong judgement. According to NPR, trans people have higher rates of preventable conditions, like HIV, due to lack of health coverage as well as inability to find a healthcare provider that will accept them.
A lot of my trans friends have expressed similar concerns about navigating healthcare. One said he was worried because his primary care provider also labels that type of care as women’s health; if he were to change his gender marker on his ID, he would be denied care.
A lot of college students, especially those who are far from home, rely on the campus health clinic as their primary care provider, which means if campus healthcare is not accepting, a transgender student would have a hard time finding somewhere else to go.
Transgender people have a long history of medical mistreatment. Many have experienced being denied care, receiving subpar care or being invalidated by healthcare professionals. The future of medical care for transgender people is especially uncertain due to the Trump administration’s recent reversal of protections against discrimination under the Affordable Care Act.
Due to this history of mistreatment, many trans people distrust medical professionals. The way to solve that is for healthcare providers to make an effort to be inclusive and use gender affirming language. For Health Service, that should start with removing the outdated label of women’s health and change it to something neutral, like reproductive health.