As asking for preferred pronouns slowly but surely becomes more commonplace and transgender awareness increases in prevalence, some institutions have lagged behind the curve. Hospitals have only recently begun taking into account the gender identities of those who do not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. Not surprisingly, this has had major ramifications. As professionals, caretakers, and administrators of healthcare, it’s critical that the patients feel a sense of mutual respect. Otherwise, the fear of being condemned could outweigh their desire to seek care
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In extreme, yet not completely outlandish incidents, patients have experienced traumatic effects after being misgendered by a medical professional. Kyler Prescott, a 14-year old transgender boy, was continually misgendered by doctors and emergency room staff when being treated for gender dysphoria in a local hospital. Despite Kyler and his mother repeatedly telling staff that his pronouns were he/him/his, medical staff still referred to him as “she”. This caused Kyler’s mental state to worsen further, and shortly after his release from the hospital he took his life.
Kyler's story reveals the real and harmful consequences of medical professionals who refuse to use proper pronouns. These social issues have serious implications for patients' health. Since the incident, several hospitals have recommended that their Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) and Laboratory Information Systems (LISs) include prefered names and pronouns in addition to sex assigned at birth. Although this amendment may seem small in comparison to the issues misgendering has caused, it is still progress and a step in the right direction. This system would give doctors and hospital staff the information needed to respect their patient’s identity.
On the other hand, a simple change to the software used in hospitals most likely will not make all the difference; doctors could still choose to refer to a patient by the pronouns that align with their sex assigned at birth. Trans and non-binary advocates cite EMR and LSI systems as the reason for being misidentified by medical profesionals and are pushing for the change to include gender identity information. Many are also willing to work with medical professionals to explain the importance of preferred pronouns. A combined effort from all medical professionals to spread awareness will make this policy most effective.