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Transgender awareness

Abi Giles, a Specialist Biomedical Scientist in Biochemistry at Royal Bolton Hospital, looks at the transgender community and the issues it faces.

With the purpose of raising awareness on various areas of the transgender community, Transgender Awareness week takes place every year, this year falling on 13–19 November. 

This community, one which I am proud to be a member of myself, has come under increasing attention over the past decade, both with positive and, unfortunately, negative consequences. The purpose of this week is to highlight and raise awareness of the community – both the issues we face and to also celebrate the rich culture and history.

Overall, the number of people who consider themselves to be trans is small – according to the recent census there were approximately 262,000 people, or around 0.5% of the population, who do not define their gender identity as the same as at birth. However, the healthcare needs of the community can sometimes be more complex than that of the cisgender (individuals who have the same gender identity as that assigned at birth) community. As laboratory staff we can play a key role within healthcare interactions that a trans service user may encounter.

The fact that the trans service users are more rarely encountered when compared to those of the cis population, as well as the differing needs, means that knowledge and understanding on how to best accommodate this patient group can be few and far between. I write this having attended this year’s IBMS Congress, where two brilliant different presentations on healthcare interactions with trans patients highlighted the paucity of answers on what best practice is. Examples include laboratory information management systems not allowing vital cancer marker screening tests due to an “incorrect” gender marker, or blood being issued to a patient with childbearing potential that could lead to sensitisation.

“I believe as an organisation we can collaboratively ensure safety for all patients”

Some of these individual incidences can have potential effects ranging from inconsequential to potentially life-threatening. As such, more work needs to be done to ensure that this is accounted for in future. I believe as an organisation we can collaboratively ensure safety for all patients.

On a more sombre note, Transgender Awareness Week ends with Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day in which those individuals we have lost in the previous year are commemorated. This is usually observed with candlelit vigils, where the names of those who are no longer with us are read out.

Unfortunately, this year has been a particularly hard one, with one very harrowing incident hitting the newspaper headlines. That being the murder of Brianna Ghey, a 16-year-old girl in Warrington in February of this year. The horrific circumstances surrounding this brought people together in mourning shortly after the news broke and will probably lead to a higher than usual turnout of people at the organised vigils this year.

To conclude I would say that there is still hope. The community is very much that – a community of people who look out for and look after one another in difficult times. It gives me great pride and hope to see representation within my profession increasing all the time, as well as in the wider world.

Image credit | iStock

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