May 18, 2015 — New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) has announced that his office will train state hospital employees on how to ensure transgender individuals have equal access to health services, Modern Healthcare reports.
The office's Civil Rights Bureau and the Greater New York Hospital Association will work together to address the issues that transgender individuals encounter in health care settings and to ensure providers are using best practices when treating transgender patients. The training will be targeted toward hospitals' diversity and quality officers, legal counsels, compliance personnel and other administrators.
Need for Transgender-Focused Policies, Training
According to Modern Healthcare, Lambda Legal, an LGBT-focused civil rights group, has found that few New York City hospitals have policies or training in place to help providers who care for transgender patients. The group worked with New York's AG office to lead a series of briefings for GNYHA's LGBT workgroup.
In addition, a 2011 survey of transgender individuals conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 24% of respondents had been denied equal access to care in a physician's office or a hospital.
Perry Halkitis -- a professor at New York University's Global Institute of Public Health, who studies LGBT health issues -- said hospital leaders must learn about transgender individuals' unique needs and the social difficulties they encounter but also promote an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance among employees. He said, "We're talking about everything as simple as understanding what it means (to be transgender) and understanding that gender identity is something that exists on a continuum."
Halkitis said provider education is needed, especially given that medical students receive little training on gender identity. However, he noted that some hospitals must consider other issues, such as the need for gender-neutral bathrooms at their facilities and appropriate forms for individuals who may not feel comfortable identifying as "male" or "female."
Separately, M. Dru Levasseur, director of Lambda Legal's Transgender Rights Project, said the initiative marks "the first time [he's] seen a state official have this kind of leadership where he's sending a message to trans[gender] New Yorkers, but also to the nation, that transgender people's treatment in hospital settings and medical settings matters and needs protections" (Rubenfire, Modern Healthcare, 5/15).