About 42 % of adult transgender reported verbal harassments, physical assaults or denial of equal treatment in a doctor’s office or hospital, according to researchers.
“Almost one third of the participants in the study were flagrantly maltreated when they tried to get healthcare,” said Deirdre Shires of Wayne State University in Detroit.
She and co-author Kim Jaffee wrote in the journal Health and Social Work that past researches found that transgender people often face discrimination or harassment in healthcare and other places where they go.
The studies were focused more on gays than lesbians.
The data came from a 2008-2009 survey of 1,711 female-to-male transgender people in the U.S. and its territories involving ages 25 to 44.
More than 75% lived full-time as their non-birth gender.
Asked about experiences in doctors’ offices or hospitals, 28 % have been denied equal treatment, about 32 % reported receiving verbal abuse, and about 1 percent reported physical assault.
Shires emphasized that it’s not clear who performed the discriminatory acts against the participants. But she added, the results may not apply to the entire transgender community.
Said Dr. Laura Erickson-Schroth, a psychiatrist at New York University in New York City, that the findings were not surprising. The study may underestimate the problem, “because the sample was tilted towards young, white, college-educated people with jobs and private health insurance”.
“The number may be even higher than the 42 % of the group.” said Erickson-Schroth, who is the editor of the book Trans Bodies, Trans Selves.
The next step, Shires said, would be to find ways to improve healthcare experiences for transgender people.
“At every point in the healthcare system if you’re transgender there is no place for you,” she said. “There is no way to identify yourself and it’s a vicious cycle.”
Erickson-Schroth pointed out that 65 survey participants said they never accessed healthcare at a doctor’s office or hospital.
“Progress is slow, even if the medical community is beginning to make changes to improve care for transgender people,” Erickson-Schroth said
“Educating providers is the most important step the medical community needs to take to discrimination against transgender people in clinical settings,” she said.
Previous research found that medical schools only spend an average of five hours on how to treat lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. Some schools never discuss the topic at all.
The education of healthcare providers should start in school, said Erickson-Schroth, but shouldn’t end there.