Even after the Supreme Court officially recognised trans persons as the third gender in 2014, the community has had to push against a mountain of assumptions and stereotypes. But this problematic attitude becomes detrimental tenfold when medical professionals dish it out at transpersons. A new study conducted by the Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley in association with Civilian Welfare Foundation, a non-profit in Kolkata, seeks to document transphobia among doctors in India. The study began on October 2016 and, according to a report by Scroll, is based on interviews with transpersons and over 300 doctors in hospitals across major cities in India.
The report also details the kind of questions transpersons have had to listen to from medical professionals in India. Just as there isn’t a dearth of doctors who do chee-chee thoo-thoo to women patients, the medical fraternity apparently is unafraid to ask downright ignorant questions to transpersons. No surprise there. More shockingly, doctors even refuse treatment to trans people. Here are some questions transpersons have had to listen to from doctors.
1. “Oh, but how can you be raped?”
A transwoman who was a part of the study was gang-raped. On approaching the doctor, she was point-blank asked how she could be raped as she was not a ‘normal’ woman. There is so much for this doctor to unlearn, starting from using the word ‘normal’ all the way to the nature of sexual violence but a good place to begin would have been to believe his patient and do his job.
2. “If you people are not infected with such diseases, then who is?”
Another transwoman from the study, Samira, went in to a government hospital three years ago for an HIV test. Samira is HIV positive and simply wanted a regular check-up for her condition. But, according to the report, the doctor and her assistant posed this transphobic rhetorical question, implying ‘you’re a transperson, so obviously, you have HIV’. Such transphobic comments by medical professionals could also prevent them from seeking any medical treatment.
3. “Will you go hide in the toilet?”
The report states that transgender activist Abhina Aher’s transgender friend was asked to go hide in the toilet when another patient visited the clinic of a doctor in South Delhi. I’d personally like to ask the doctor to hide his face instead.
4. “Can I check your genitals?”
‘What genitals do trans persons have?’ is a common curious question from the ignorant, but it’s staggering to hear this from medical professionals who should understand that transgender is an umbrella term, and more importantly, it is a gender that is chosen by an individual and not a sex assigned at birth. According to Aher in the report, doctors have asked several transpersons to show them their genitals for something as simple as a fever examination.
And on the flip side, there are many doctors were unwilling to touch their transgender patients to conduct physical examinations for them.
The extent of transphobia in the medical fraternity is particularly scary. Imagine going to your doctor for a treatment and being asked to hide in a closet for simply being who you are and even more dangerously, being refused treatment for no valid reason? Imagine this repeatedly happening to people you know. While any form of transphobia is a hard pill to swallow (and it shouldn’t be swallowed in the first place, just spat out) but transphobia from doctors affects the community more tangibly, physically and immediately. While this report only states examples from the study, the full extent of its research could paint a scary picture of how we view and act with the transgender community in places of urgency.
And if you are wondering where doctors get this sort of bad education look no further. Here is a full account via Agents of Ishq about what doctors really think about gender and sexuality and where they learn these amazing views.