I recently had the opportunity to attend the Sex & Gender 101 webinar designed to help anyone in the healthcare field learn more about creating trans inclusive care. It is crucial to create an environment that is inclusive because trans people – especially trans people of color – face many barriers to healthcare.
We have all had doctor’s appointments where we were required to fill out a form and check one of two boxes to describe our gender: male or female. For someone who is not cisgender, or someone whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex, this can immediately cause feelings anxiety and mistrust before the appointment even starts.
When we look at gender beyond the binary, we find that there are many identities that comprise a person. The first identity that should be recognized is a person’s pronouns; most commonly, we might think of she/her and he/him pronouns, but there are other pronouns like they/them, ze/zir, or others that someone may decide most accurately represents them. It is important to respect and use a person’s preferred pronouns and to understand that we cannot infer other aspects of a person’s identity based on their pronouns.
Another identity that may be important to recognize in the healthcare setting is sex assigned at birth. Like gender, sex assigned at birth is also commonly thought of as binary: male or female. However, people could also be intersex, meaning their genetics and/or anatomy may not fit into the traditional male or female boxes.
Coming back to gender, the typical male and female boxes should be expanded to include, at a minimum, nonbinary. The term nonbinary is a specific gender identity label and an umbrella term. Whether specific or general, this word refers to anyone whose gender is somewhere outside of a strict gender binary. Not all nonbinary people consider themselves to be transgender, but the definition of transgender used here does include nonbinary people.
Gender expression is an identity that may align with someone’s gender but does not have to. People belonging to any gender have the freedom to present themselves in manners that are feminine, masculine, both, or neither. Like pronouns, we cannot assume the other identities of a person based on their gender expression.
The last two identities are sexual attraction and romantic attraction, which, like gender and gender expression, could be the same or different.
I hope that like me, you were able to learn something about gender identities. If you are a healthcare professional, I challenge you to make changes to your practice that will create a more inclusive space for people of all identities.
For more information about this training program, visit https://www.innovating-education.org/course/gender-inclusive-care/.
About the Author
Katie Hood, PharmD Candidate is a pharmacy student in the Class of 2021 at Shenandoah University Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Katie completed an elective APPE rotation with Birth Control Pharmacist.