Transgender Healthcare Reality


Shitty healthcare experiences are the norm when it comes to the treatment of transgender people. This happens even in British Columbia, where we have laws and healthcare policies that are supposed to protect transgender patients.

Since January of this year, I’ve had to access the ER three times. The first time, which was on my birthday, was beyond horrible. The second time, which was this past Saturday, was, again horrible. The third time, which was this past Sunday, was an improvement.

But because of the horrible treatment I received in January, and then again this past Saturday, I nearly did not return to the ER at Cowichan District Hospital (CDH) on Sunday. If it were not for the BC Healthlink RN telling me I must return for care immediately and to be forceful with the staff if they continue to mistreat me, things could have turned out much dire.

Because of the treatment I received in January and again this past weekend, I decided to put in a complaint to the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s (VIHA) Patient Care Quality Office. Putting in the complaint came back with the best possible result.

Currently, I’m doped up on all sorts of medication. Because I’m higher than kite, I’ve Storify’d my experiences.

The first Storify is from January. The second Storify are the events that took place, beginning on Saturday when I went to CDH, and concluding today with a call from VIHA’s Patient Care Quality Office.

Both are multiple pages but are important to read.

  What is missing from the first story, is that I asked no fewer than four times—once in triage, once at admitting, twice in the ER—that a note be made on my chart that I’m transgender and that my correct pronouns are masculine. Not only did they not respect my pronouns and look at me like I had a growth coming out of my neck each time I told them to make a note about my pronouns, and were not sensitive during x-ray safety questions, but they were discussing my case loud enough for the entire ER to overhear.  


It wasn’t until after I called the nurse out on using the wrong pronouns that she began discussing my case in hushed tones.

Her apology was far from an apology and very dismissive.

Me: You need to stop calling me “she.”

Nurse: Pardon me?

Me: You need to stop calling me “she.” I’m a male. It’s “he.” Look at my chart.

Nurse: I didn’t…

Me: Unless there is some other patient in the ER with lupus who is on warfarin and having neuro issues, you most certainly did call me “she” and multiple times.

Nurse: Oh.. Umm…. sorry?(notsorry).

There are two takeaways from my story:

  1. Something as “simple” as using the correct pronouns—notice how I didn’t say “preferred”—is extremely vital if you want transgender patients to seek emergency healthcare. I’m at a huge risk for TIAs and stroke, plus I’m on immuno-suppressants, blood thinners, and prescription list longer than my arm. These are not things you monkey around with, but I was willing to wait until I was seizing or unconscious before heading back to the ER on Sunday because of my mistreatment in January and on Saturday. No-one should ever be denied the respect of correct pronoun use; you don’t see this happening to cisgender people. And healthcare professionals should never discuss patient cases so loudly that the entire ER can her. This is not good! 
  2. Don’t be afraid to put in a formal complaint and be the squeaky wheel. Somebody has to do it and it actually works! If it were just my healthcare involved, I would have probably remained silent, and just refused to seek emergency medical care. I work with a number of trans* teens who have also told me their own CDH ER horror stories. Because my experiences and my complaint will benefit them, I happily do it.

It’s shitty that this happens, and this can be considered a mild incident. Much worse happens all the time. But, even if it seems mild to you, oh cisgender reader who wants to learn more, remember: I had to be pushed into seeking care on Sunday when things took a sudden change for the worse because medical professionals were refusing to follow the law and care quality standards in the “simple act” of repeatedly misgendering me.

If you are transgender, live on Vancouver Island, and have had mistreatment when dealing with a medical professional—not just in the ER—then you can contact VIHA’s Patient Care Quality Office here.

For transgender people outside of VIHA’s jurisdiction, just search your health authority followed by “patient care quality office complaint.”

You have rights and are protected under health policy and the law. Please stand up for those rights. It really does work.

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