Queer Columbus: Medical intake forms should ask gender identity

Our columnist says that this simple adjustment could increase the comfort level of trans and nonbinary patients seeking medical care.
Patient medical history form
Patient medical history form Marco Verch under Creative Commons 2.0

I’ve been to the doctor a lot in the last year.  

Fortunately, I’m a fairly healthy person, and most of the visits were for elective care and health maintenance. But while I been to doctors throughout Central Ohio for a number of reasons – from gender-affirming care to eye checkups – there’s one thing that has almost universally connected my experience: The intake forms don’t ask for a preferred name and pronouns.  

All of them ask a patient for their sex, but the majority don’t ask for gender identity, which can set trans and nonbinary patients up for an uncomfortable appointment.

Not having the option to self-identify as a non-passing, nonbinary person has put me in miserable situations. I once had a dermatologist use the wrong pronouns over and over while carving into my ankle with a scalpel during an hour-long procedure. Even worse, on the morning of a gender-affirming surgery, two nurses called me by the wrong pronouns as I was being put under anesthesia. 

I don’t blame these individuals for adding additional emotional stress and discomfort to my experiences. I blame the thoughtlessness of the institution. A surgery center that often hosts doctors performing gender-affirming operations doesn’t ask for pronouns and gender identity on its intake form. That’s an oversight that ensures a number of patients will experience the same discomfort and lack of trust in doctors in the future. 

What makes it even more frustrating is that if I were to sit down with each of these medical professionals and ask if they want to make sure trans patients are comfortable in their care, I am sure most, if not all, would respond with a resounding yes. And yet, because of the way the intake forms are designed, there’s no way for them to know how their patients identify. 

I realize that many of these instances would have still happened if I had been able to self-identify; being misgendered is a part of my daily life. But if I had been able to self-identify, I would have known that even when medical professionals made a mistake, the organization as a whole still cared and wanted to make an effort to identify me correctly. An intake form without a gender-identity section tells me the institutions don’t care about trans people. They aren’t training their staff on trans care. And they aren’t trying to do anything to mitigate the fact that some trans people avoid doctors for this reason. 

Medical practitioners in Central Ohio: Get your shit together.

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