Gender affirming care is a term used to describe health care that is specifically tailored to meet the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. This type of care can include anything from mental health services to hormone therapy to gender confirmation surgery.
Beyond annswering the simplest question—what is gender affirming care?—it’s crucial to understand why this style of health care is so important for transgender people and patients as a rule.
The Importance of Gender-Affirming Care
Gender affirming care is an important and necessary part of healthcare for trans and gender non-conforming individuals. By providing gender affirming care, healthcare providers can help ensure that non-binary and transfender people feel comfortable and accepted in a healthcare environment, which in turn can help improve their mental and physical health.
There is a growing body of research that shows that transgender and gender non-conforming individuals face significant health disparities compared to the general population. For example, trans and non-binary individuals are more likely to experience mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, to engage in substance abuse, and to attempt suicide. They are also at a higher risk for certain medical conditions, such as HIV and cancer, due to lack of access to care and discrimination.
Gender affirming care can help address some of these health disparities. For example, by providing transgender and gender non-conforming individuals with access to hormone therapy and gender-appropriate medical care, healthcare providers can help improve their mental and physical health.
Providing Gender-Affirming Care
Medical providers can begin to practice gender affirming care by understanding the terminology and concepts related to gender and gender identity. It is important to remember that gender identity is not the same as sex assigned at birth. There are many terms that are used to describe gender identity and expression, and it is important to be aware of these terms and use them correctly.
It is also important to understand the different ways that people may transition. There is no one way to transition, and everyone’s journey is unique. Some people may transition completely, while others may only make small changes.
Some of these terms include:
- Gender identity: A person’s internal sense of being a man, woman, neither, or both.
- Gender expression: How a person expresses their gender identity, for example, through clothing, hairstyle, and mannerisms.
- Transgender: A term used to describe people who identify with a gender that is different from the gender they were assigned at birth.
- Cisgender: A term used to describe people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.
- Transition: The process of changing from the gender a person was assigned at birth to the gender they identify with. This can involve changing one’s appearance, name, and pronouns, and may also include hormones and surgery.
- Hormone therapy: Hormone therapy is the use of hormones to change the body’s appearance and secondary sex characteristics. Hormones can be taken orally, by injection, or by skin patch.
- Surgery: Surgery is the most extreme form of transition, and is only recommended for people who are classified as having Gender Dysphoria (previously referred to as Gender Identity Disorder) and meet other eligibility criteria. There are a number of different surgeries that can be performed, including surgery to change the sex of the genitals, breast surgery, and surgery to change the appearance of the face.
- Name and pronoun changes: Many people choose to change their name and pronouns when they transition. This can be a difficult process, but it is important to respect the person’s chosen name and pronouns.
There are many other ways that providers can begin to provide gender affirming care. It is important to be open to learning about the needs of trans and non-binary patients and to be willing to work with them to create a care plan that meets their needs.
Gender affirming care is vital for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, who often face discrimination and exclusion from the mainstream health care system. By providing these individuals with tailored care, we can help them to feel supported and affirmed in their gender identity.