Celebrating Gender-Affirming Care at BILH
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Lahey Hospital & Medical Center Offer Specialized Gender-Affirming Care Programs To Better Serve Transgender and Gender-Diverse Patients
June is Pride Month and we’re highlighting the specialized gender-affirming care programs offered at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Lahey Hospital & Medical Center (LHMC).
Gender-affirming care is any medical care that seeks to affirm a person’s gender. It spans across various medical specialties and may include endocrinology, dermatology, urology, obstetrics and gynecology, plastic and reconstructive surgery, and voice and speech therapy. “Everyone’s journey is different and how their gender is affirmed is different,” says Caryn Spano, program coordinator for LHMC’s gender-affirming care program, “So there’s no one way. It’s not linear at all.”
According to the 2022 Williams Institute Report, about 1.3 million adults in the United States identify as transgender while .67% of adults in Massachusetts identify as transgender or gender diverse. At present, over 1,000 patients have benefitted from LHMC and BIDMC’s gender-affirming care programs which are available to transgender and gender-diverse patients ages 18 and older.
Over 90% of studies show that gender transition and gender-affirming care leads to improved overall wellbeing for transgender adults, such as significant reduction in psychological distress, suicidal ideation, and even smoking. Spano notes that many patients first arrive at the gender-affirming care program after receiving subpar care elsewhere. Many of them have had to go through other programs or seek resources in different places, which is something BIDMC and LHMC never require patients to do.
Both gender-affirming care programs are integrated, meaning patients can have all their medical needs met within the system and their providers work as a team. In fact, at LHMC, every provider within its gender-affirming care program reached out to Spano directly to voice their desire to be part of the program. This has led to a team of compassionate, knowledgeable providers who feel it’s important to be involved in gender-affirming care.
Spano mentions that many patients have made comments to her about how, prior to enrolling in the gender-affirming care program at LHMC, they had gotten used to being misgendered or having their legal name used over their chosen name. “My response is, ‘I don’t want you to think that you have to get used to that with our program,’” says Spano, “It’s our goal to make sure that you get 100% care, and you don’t have to say that with Lahey.”
Making Patients More Comfortable
As a health care provider, you don’t need to work within a gender-affirming care program to make patients of all gender identities feel comfortable. Simply being mindful of the way you interact with others can go a long way:
- Avoid using prefixes that assume gender, such as Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ma’am, or Sir.
- Refer to patients by their chosen name – it won’t always correspond with their legal name.
- Use your patient’s chosen pronouns (it’s okay to ask which pronouns they use).
- Don’t make assumptions about a person’s gender based on what they’re wearing.
- If you make a mistake, apologize and keep it moving – over apologizing can be uncomfortable for patients and/or make them feel like they need to support you.
Using inclusive language will benefit both you and your patients. Plus, you could very well be the first health care provider who’s really made them feel at ease.