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Sandyford develops new response to tackle stigma experienced by transgender patients

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Harassment and discrimination experienced by transgender people is being challenged by Sandyford, our specialised sexual health service.

The Gender Identity Service at Sandyford is receiving increasing numbers of referrals for patients wanting to transition from one sex to another.

There were 215 referrals to the young people’s Gender Identity Clinic in the year from October 2016 and 335 referrals to the adult clinic in the same period. Many of these patients have experienced some forms of discrimination.

Scottish Transgender Alliance research has shown 62% of transgender people have experienced transphobic harassment from strangers while 52% have received discrimination or harassment from work colleagues.

A central tenant of Sandyford’s new sexual health strategic plan outlines how transgender people are treated by the service, what can be done to fight the stigma they can experience and updates education materials on transgender specific issues.

Rhoda MacLeod, Head of Sexual Health, said: "This new strategic plan was developed following extensive consultation with our stakeholders and service users.

“We are increasingly seeing a rise in referrals to the Gender Identity Service. We are making a concerted push on cutting waiting times for the young people and adult services, and maximising patients wellbeing. 

“A new strand to the strategic plan is developing a positive experience for transgender people using sexual health services. We are determined to play a key role in ending the stigma people can experience and creating a better understanding of transgender issues.

“For the first time, the service will produce relationships, sexual health and parenthood education material for schools to include transgender specific issues.”

Patients at the service, hosted by Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, will be treated with respect and dignity, enjoy positive sexual health and wellbeing, and have access to a modern, fit-for-purpose gender identity clinic which meets their needs in a safe and sensitive manner.

The new plan has been developed following a four month consultation which resulted in almost 300 responses being received from a wide range of partners and service users. 

The service’s previous sexual health and blood borne virus framework has formed the foundation for the new strategy which aims to build on its predecessor’s successes. Seven key outcomes have been identified to further develop the service and meet the needs of service users. 

In addition to sexual health services for transgender people, the other key outcomes are:

  • Fewer newly acquired blood borne viruses, sexual transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies
  • A reduction in the health inequality gap in sexual health and blood borne viruses
  • Helping people affected by blood borne viruses to lead longer, healthier lives with a good quality of life
  • Sexual relationships free from coercion and harm
  • Fostering a society in which the attitudes of individuals, the public, professionals and the media towards sexual health and blood borne viruses are supportive and stigma-free
  • Young people have positive sexual health and respectful relationships free from coercion, discrimination and harm in a culture which values their sexuality

The strategic plan will be supported by dedicated programmes in research and innovation, training, engagement and performance management.

Case study: Marie

Marie (44) lives in Glasgow and is a radiotherapy assistant at The Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre where she has worked for 14 years. 

Born male, Marie lived her younger years in ways which pleased others as it was easier than making waves. However, from a very young age, Marie wanted to be female. 

She took about 10 years to work out how she wanted to progress which caused her to experience depression. 

Marie no longer has contact with her family. At first they were supportive but as time has gone by they have become more negative about her decision to transition from male to female, however she is determined that she has a positive frame of mind and under no circumstances will she go back to the way she was before. 

Once she decided she wanted to transition, the first thing Marie did was put in place a support network of friends, colleagues and people she had gotten to know through forums on the subject. 

It took Marie a number of months to tell management at the Beatson about her decision to transition, but she felt she could no longer pretend to be someone she wasn’t. 

When she did approach management they were supportive when she said she wanted to return to work as Marie following an absence through illness. She worked with management to identify the best way to inform colleagues and other staff of her decision and put together statement to share her news following input from HR and management. 

Following sickness leave, Marie wasn’t fearful about returning to work and sharing her decision with colleagues. She was just keen to return to work and get some normality back in her life. 

Marie felt a real outpouring of love and support from colleagues when she did return and had shared her decision to transition. Being surrounded by positive colleagues means lot and her trade union, Unite the Union has also been very supportive. 

She was really worried about working with patients again and felt nervous at the prospect. As it turned out, she soon realised that many of them were preoccupied with their own thoughts given that they were receiving treatment for cancer. 

She has found the vast majority of patients are very positive and encouraging – she has even been given cards and gifts from well wishers. 

Some patients and visitors have been judgemental, but if she hears negative conversations Marie introduces herself and has found that people don’t always realise that their comments can be hurtful. 

Marie feels that now she has transitioned she is more productive at work as she is now more approachable and more open. Her life has vastly improved and she feels she can now be her genuine self.

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