As healthcare workers, we need to be educated and learn how to make transgender and gender non-binary and gender non-conforming people feel comfortable seeking support, help, and treatment from us. There are a few easy ways to do this, and I hope you will consider implementing them immediately.
This is the first in a series of blog posts that will cover several ways in which healthcare workers can help make the healthcare experience more comfortable, safer, and accessible for transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary individuals.
First of all, for many mental healthcare workers, it is possible to make and use your own intake, insurance and policy forms. You can choose to make them much more gender-friendly by making a few changes. Create your own documents rather than giving clients insurance forms whenever possible. Insurance forms currently only provide binary choices (Male or Female), or unknown. This is unacceptable and should not be the only options used.
- Create your own forms leaving off the sex/gender questions altogether and simply discuss and add important information in your notes, OR
- Provide check boxes for Male, Female, & Other ______, leaving room to have clients fill in how they identify themselves, OR
- Provide space for “Sex Assigned at Birth _____ ” and “Gender Currently ______.”
- Add pronouns _____ to your forms for all new clients/patients to complete, not just those you feel might be different than cis-gender. This helps get this terminology in front of more people and makes it feel common to be asked such questions, which will make it more mainstream and comfortable in time.
I am hoping to partner with an organization(s) in hopes of changing health insurance forms to be more inclusive and use similar terms as above and/or provide space for this information. It is gravely important for medical staff to know when someone is transgender or gender non-conforming for many health-related reasons and often this is overlooked and missed. If you are interested in helping make this kind of larger impact change, or if you already are involved in this kind of work, please contact me.
Kimberly Atwood is a licensed psychotherapist and certified sex therapist working in private practice in Princeton, NJ. She also provides online therapy with clients living in Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. She specializes in sexual health, intimacy and relationship issues. For more information, please check out her website.