Addressing trans people…
For healthcare professionals who have not treated trans people before, how to address them can be a worry. But it does not need to be this way and needn’t involve big changes to your practice.
I probably don’t need to say this, but treat a trans patient the same as any other patient – with respect and dignity. There should of course be sensitivity around the fact that some patients may be part way through their transition, both psychologically and physically, and therefore may not fit what the world classically perceives as a ‘male’ or ‘female’ phenotype.
A trans woman should be addressed as ‘she’ and ‘her’ and a trans man as ‘he’ and ‘him’. Some people are gender neutral or gender fluid, otherwise known as nonbinary gender, and may instead wish to be addressed as ‘they’, ‘them’ or ‘their’. This often leads to some confusion as it may be unclear from their gender presentation as to what their actual gender identity is and so, if in any doubt, it is important to remember it is always alright to just ask them how they wish to be referred to and respect this.
You may at some point address a trans person incorrectly and this can be embarrassing or upsetting for you and can cause hurt to the patient who may be trying their best to conform to society’s gender rules. I am afraid there is no heroic way to deal with this and in my experience, a pride-swallowing apology is a most welcomed gesture.
Have you ever been unsure how to best address a trans person? Has it presented issues in your clinic or practice?