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Five Things to Know about LGBTQ+ Issues in Healthcare Today

June 22, 2018

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By Steve Blanchard 

As a cancer center that values and respects people from all backgrounds, Moffitt adopted policies over seven years ago that ensure transgender patients receive the same quality of care as any other patients who come through the doors. Senior director of Moffitt Diversity, Cathy Grant, answers a few questions about the unique issues LGBTQ+ patients face and discusses ways in which Moffitt is ensuring its facilities and treatments are comfortable and accepting of all. After all, June is National LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and this weekend marks the annual St. Pete Pride celebration, Florida’s largest Pride event.

Cathy Grant, Senior Director of Moffitt Diversity

Why are so many LGBTQ+ people, especially those who are transgender, unwilling to seek proper healthcare?
I think the transgender community has historically faced a lot of discrimination in the healthcare setting and in other settings throughout the community. This mistrust creates fear and a lack of confidence that they would not be treated well when they do present to receive medical care. Lack of trust is a major barrier to care – the fear that they won’t be treated well upon arrival or they just won’t have a good experience is a foremost worry.

Past unfavorable healthcare experiences have resulted in concerns that providers may be biased or lack knowledge about their health-related concerns. As a cancer center, we are working to ensure transgender patients are comfortable and can focus on their treatment in an environment that is sensitive to their needs.

How does Moffitt identify a transgender patient?
Collecting gender identity and sexual orientation data will soon become a requirement for hospitals.  When it comes to identifying a transgender patient, research suggests that having an opportunity to self-disclose gender identity information sensitively is ideal. That means a patient should be presented with the questions about gender identity or sexual orientation as early as possible in the continuum of care. This ensures transgender patients are treated in culturally competent ways (e.g. referring to the patient by their preferred name and pronouns) and areas of clinical relevancy are addressed (e.g. hormone treatment adherence, fertility issues, and appropriate screenings) from the onset.

How does an organization like Moffitt prepare for treating transgender patients?
The LGBTQ+ community faces significant health disparities, including disproportionate rates of tobacco, alcohol and drug usage, and increased rates of depression and anxiety. Availability of better data will allow health care providers to better serve the individual needs of LGBTQ+ clients. 

It is important to have a hospital workforce that is prepared to meet the needs of transgender patients. Hospitals nationwide are working to make sure they are better prepared to meet the needs of the LGBTQ+ community in general.  At Moffitt, the strategies range from data collection, to educating the team members, to community outreach. While the education includes the importance of inclusion; it also covers the basics, such as the difference between sex, gender and sexuality. We want the average person to understand these concepts at a minimum. We work to demystify that gender is a spectrum, and help our team members understand the nuances of caring for a transgender person versus. a gay man, a lesbian or someone who is bisexual, for example.

Why should communication be approached differently when treating a transgender patient?
A transgender person’s internal sense of self is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Communication is critical as it values the person’s internal authentic sense of self, regardless of where they are on the path of transitioning and what is seen on the outside. Recognition through the use of preferred name and appropriate pronouns of who someone feels his- or herself to be internally is the beginning of an affirming interaction. This is where trust begins.

How do organizations like Moffitt handle transphobia from non-staff members, like patients or other guests?
We want everyone who walks into the cancer center and have the best possible experience. Both our gender-conforming and non-conforming patients must be made comfortable. We support our team members by providing guidance on how to respond during uncomfortable situations and ensure that we are equitable with our policies and procedures.  No matter who walks through the door, we want them to know we support inclusion for everyone.