As one of the Baltimore area’s primary healthcare institutions, LifeBridge Health is committed to supporting transgender employees and patients in our communities.
Transgender individuals in need of medical care are often faced with a difficult choice: seek treatment (despite the likelihood of facing discrimination in the process) or avoid treatment altogether. Many find the situation traumatic, with their gender questioned, the need to fill out intake forms that do not include gender-diverse options, being denied gender-affirming care, being “deadnamed” or addressed by a name they no longer use, and a host of other indignities.
A 2020 survey conducted by the Center for American Progress concluded that nearly half of all transgender participants—and 68% percent of transgender participants of color—experienced at least one instance of discrimination by a healthcare provider.
Education can effectively combat the widespread mistreatment of trans people in medical settings. Sterling Kelley, chair of LifeBridge Health’s LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group, explains that enlightening fellow team members is one of the group’s primary objectives.
“We know that when we go in and people are misgendered … it’s a barrier and it could turn someone away when they probably worked themselves up to getting to the doctor,” Kelley says.
For this reason, the LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group holds educational events that all LifeBridge Health team members are welcome to attend. These events can help equip staff with the knowledge to treat trans patients and co-workers with dignity and respect. Kelley notes that through educational events, the resource group has learned that in many cases ignorance, rather than malice, was to blame for errors in addressing members of the trans community. “They just did not know. They hadn’t been exposed to different pronouns … and being comfortable asking ‘What pronouns do you prefer?’”
Beyond the work of the LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group, LifeBridge Health is committed on an organizational level to educating its employees and ensuring that all members of the LGBTQ community are respected and addressed properly at all facilities. To this end, LifeBridge Health holds several cultural competency trainings throughout the year.
As a result of its commitment to improving LGBTQ care, LifeBridge Health’s Sinai and Northwest hospitals currently hold the designation of LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Top Performers as part of the Human Rights Campaign’s Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), a resource which assesses the equity and inclusivity of hospitals nationwide. Still, the HEI survey that led to these designations also helped identify areas in which much work remains to be done toward the creation of a safe, inclusive and affirming environment for trans patients. One area of focus is the collection of patient demographic information, a process which currently excludes several crucial identifiers such as sex assigned at birth, current gender identity and pronouns.
Respecting and accepting someone else’s gender identity does not require a complete understanding of transness, nor does it require a sense of personal comfort with the idea of transness; it requires only a willingness to acknowledge the humanity and self-determination of a fellow person.