Britta Shute, FNP, (left) talks to Dr. Rebecca Andrews in the UConn Health Outpatient Pavilion. Both are primary care and family medicine practitioners who treat a number of transgender patients.
UConn Health’s trans-competent health care providers are on a mission to enhance access to comprehensive care for the 12,400 transgender adults living in Connecticut.
Transgender is an umbrella term that may be used to describe individuals whose gender expression does not conform to cultural norms and/or who identify differently from their sex assigned at birth. There are 1.4 million transgender adults in the U.S.
Though individuals may self-identify as transgender, it’s not a term that all gender nonconforming people use: individuals may not identify as the male or female gender they were born or as any gender at all, or they may consider themselves to be gender fluid, with both male and female traits.
“Our hope is to raise greater gender-identity awareness among health care providers to improve the transgender patient experience,” said Dr. Rebecca Andrews, associate professor of medicine at UConn Health. “Given our societal norms, transgender patients can often feel pressure to characterize their gender as either male or female. But during their health care visits and beyond, they should just get to be whoever they truly want to be, while having their unique health needs addressed.”
Providers should be aware that not all transgender patients choose to alter their physical presentation with hormone replacement therapy or surgery.
Transgender persons often encounter extra daily stressors during childhood through adulthood that place them at greater risk for psychological and mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and suicide. In a national study by The Trevor Project, 40 percent of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. Most of these cases are thought to be due to lack of access to appropriate mental health support and medical care, so the World Professional Association for Transgender Health advocates for collaboration between medical and mental health providers for most trans individuals.
In addition to providing appropriate care, “our goal at UConn Health is to empower transgender patients to be more comfortable seeking health care, and also to arm health care providers with the latest information they need to best care for the patient population,” said Britta Shute, FNP, of the Department of Family Medicine at UConn Health, who specializes in transgender patient care. “Spread the word. We are here at UConn Health for transgender patients,” Shute says.
To train the next generation of physicians, UConn School of Medicine’s new MDelta curriculum incorporates more education about transgender care.