Art & Culture / News

The NHS is failing its LGBTQI+ patients

All we want is to feel #queerandcaredfor - is that too much to ask? 

Today, a report by the Women and Equalities Commission comprising of MPs has published recommendations on how best to tackle the disparities currently thriving within a National Health System that assumes its patients to all be cisgender and heterosexual. Noting that LGBTQI+ people have poorer health in terms of “smoking and smoking cessation, alcohol abuse, and even cancer outcomes” it goes onto state that insufficient training and data collection are to blame for the current system’s inequalities.

Whilst we can all see the benefit of improved training on how best to cater for queer patients, the report’s recommendation that queer people declare their sexual orientation and gender identity in the process of seeking treatment seems somewhat dystopian. Given the recent data leaks affecting 150,000 English patients in July last year and disclosing 2000 email addresses in the records of gender identity clinic in September, how can we know that these details will be safe – even with patient-doctor confidentiality?  The fact is, instances of transphobic and other queerphobic hate crimes are on the rise and  remaining closeted is a means of survival that shouldn’t be taken away.

Placing the pressure on LGBTQI+ individuals to declare their identities will help the NHS to gather more of a picture of the specific issues affecting us, but we can only do this if health professionals actually make us feel safe enough to disclose this information. Will the NHS promote the LGBTQI+ and QTPOC healthcare providers, doctors, psychiatrists and counsellors who will understand our experiences? And if the UK Government wants to send a pro-LGBTQI+ message, why is Matt Hancock – who once tweeted that the Labour Party is “full of queers” – our Health Secretary?

Part of the reason that we collectively struggle with mental health, substance abuse and getting medical help when we need it is the feeling that the rights that cis-heterosexuals have enjoyed for so long have only recently been applied to us. The way that society has been shaped doesn’t necessarily accommodate the spectrum of gender, sexuality and relationship structures that we identify with – but we shouldn’t have to feel like gaining specialised care is some kind of “favour” or act of “goodwill” on the part of the government. The NHS needs to prove that it’s there to support us and it sees our well-being as just as important as that of the rest of society.

Amongst some of the more common experiences are trans men facing barriers to accessing cervical screenings, patients encountering difficulties discussing gender or sexual identity within counselling, and trouble navigating long waiting lists and ill-equipped GPs to gain access gender-affirming surgery. This doesn’t even touch on the fundamental failures to provide ethical care for intersex individuals. Yet it’s not only in the UK: it’s also an issue for the US’s private healthcare system. The lack of support for non-binary individuals and dearth of information surrounding queer female sexual health has led to independent projects such as non-binary health Instagram account @themshealth and Tegan and Sara-fronted initiative Queer Health Access.

So, no. It’s not just about filling out our identities on a form – it’s about structural change. The NHS will only become more lGBTQI+ friendly if it tries as hard to accommodate us as we do to navigate our overwhelmingly cis-het society.

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@noxshop repost for #breastcancerawarenessmonth : While breast/chest cancer is still most prevalent in cis-gendered women, there is a confusing amount of misinformation out there on who exactly should be getting screened. So we went to the source. Here is what the Canadian Cancer Society has to say: Breast cancer. It’s not something that any of us like to think about, but for many trans women and people on the transfeminine (male-to-female/MtF) spectrum, breast cancer screening can come with particular concerns. You may have heard different — or conflicting — information about whether or not you’re at risk for developing breast cancer, whether you should be screened and how often, and if taking hormones or having breast implants have any impact on cancer risk or screening. It can be hard to make breast cancer screening a priority. Maybe you don’t think you need to be screened. Maybe you’re concerned that you could experience transphobia at the screening facility. Perhaps you’re worried that having a mammogram could be uncomfortable or upsetting. Or, maybe you just don’t want to think about cancer. Here’s what we know: Taking gender-affirming hormones (like estrogen) for more than five years increases your risk of developing breast cancer. If you’ve taken hormones for more than five years, and you’re between the ages of 50 and 69, you should get a mammogram (or other screening test) every two years. If you’re a trans woman who has never taken gender-affirming hormones (like estrogen), or if you’ve taken hormones for fewer than five years, then you do not need to be screened regularly for breast cancer. For many trans men and people on the transmasculine (female-to-male/FtM) spectrum, screening for cancer in the chest area comes with particular concerns. It can be hard to make chest cancer screening a priority, especially if the process is at odds with your gender identity. If you’re a trans guy aged 50 to 69, though, it’s important to get screened for cancer in the chest area. This means finding cancer before there are any symptoms by getting a mammogram every two years. Even if you’ve had top surgery, you still need to monitor the health of your chest tissue

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22 October 2019