Delivering health services to transgender people

Advice for health professionals

Transgender people have both general health needs (eg, oncology, chronic conditions, sexual health screening, influenza immunisations) and specific health needs that relate to transition (eg, endocrine, surgical).

All health providers, both in community and hospital settings, have a duty to deliver services that are respectful of our transgender community.

  • Use the patient’s correct pronouns (he/him, she/her, they/them, etc) and preferred name. If you are not sure how your patient wishes to be addressed, politely ask.
  • Being aware of local support services, groups, resources and relevant referral pathways for transgender people.
  • Don’t confuse being transgender with sexual orientation. Gender is about who we are and how we fit in the world. Transgender people can be heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, takatāpui, queer or one of many other words available.
  • Understand that there is a growing recognition of gender as fluid, or as a spectrum. Not all transgender people want to ‘achieve’ or ‘pass’ as the opposite gender to what they were assigned at birth. Many people are comfortable in a space between masculine and feminine, and this is not a reason to withhold gender-affirming treatments.

Transgender people are often over represented in poor health outcomes. Few of these poor outcomes are caused by a transgender identity itself, but rather by discrimination from whānau, health services and those in wider society.

The distress caused by the mismatch of sex assigned at birth and gender identity (often termed gender dysphoria) can be effectively reduced when access to timely, gender-affirming health care is available.

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