The Landspítali Transgender Services Team will today, starting at 10AM, hold a conference in Reykjavík to educate healthcare workers, teachers and other public and private sector workers and employers on the issues that trans people face when accessing education and healthcare.
With Dagur B. Eggertsson, the mayor of Reykjavík and Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir giving an address, the event has attracted mainstream support and some of the foremost experts on trans issues.
Perhaps none more qualified to speak, on account of personal and professional experience, than Jamison Green.
GayIceland sits down with the current President of WPATH ( World Professional Association for Transgender Health) to discuss the purpose of the conference and the wider issues that trans people face when accessing public services.
Jamison has personal experience of interacting with a healthcare system that doesn’t fully understand the needs of trans people.
“I am a trans man who began his medical transition from female to male in 1988, shortly before I turned 40. As I transitioned, I learned that there were a lot of things that the doctors didn’t think to tell me. Such as the language excluding coverage for transsexual treatments from health insurance, usually provided by employers as a benefit in addition to salary, was so broad that it could prevent trans people from accessing any health care, in some cases, that included emergency and routine, basic health care.”
“ … while I have met people who have been horribly damaged by the way they’ve been treated, most of those I’ve met have been remarkable, resilient, and compassionate people.”
Jamison turned his personal experience into political activism and was instrumental in negiotating a non-discrimination ordinance for the city of San Francisco in 1994. He has applied his professional communication skills as a qualified writer and lawyer, to improving communication between trans people and healthcare professionals.
“As a communications professional, it was clear to me that communication between doctors and trans patients was not very effective, and I also realised that trans people needed medical professionals to be conscious of the kinds of things we dealt with when we were not in their offices. We needed medical professionals to be more aware and conscious advocates to help us be recognized as human beings who deserve good health and good care, as well as justice and equality in society.”
Jamison’s presentation at The Landspítali Transgender Services Team conference will attempt to build bridges between groups and educate those who come into contact with trans people in a professional capacity on the WPATH Standards of Care and the organisation in general.
When accessing healthcare trans people have specific needs, which are often misunderstood or dismissed by professionals. Jamison goes on to explain this: “Ignorance of and prejudice against trans people and their health issues in healthcare settings and public services creates situations that are emotionally taxing on both trans and cis people and lead to psychological physical damage,” he says.
“The decades of antipathy toward trans people that was prevalent in the medical community until only recently has deeply wounded trans people. Lack of insurance coverage for trans-specific treatments led to lack of interest in teaching in medical schools about care that won’t be reimbursed.”
Aside from ignorance, Jamison explains that building bridges between healthcare workers and the trans community is essential for the safety of trans people.
“[Trans people face] blatant discrimination, including physical and emotional abuse, when attempting to access health care and there is ignorance about how to treat trans people’s bodies either in transition or in ongoing care. All of this encourages trans people to avoid care which can lead to adverse health outcomes.”
He also says that with more trans people coming out, the demand for services in trans specific healthcare is growing and professionals need to be educated. “Doctors, and employers, used to think that trans people were so rare and so mentally ill that they would likely never encounter them, but as increasing numbers of trans people come out – including increasingly younger trans people – and as insurance barriers collapse, the chance that they will encounter a trans person are growing exponentially.”
Increasingly more young people are realising they are trans and the need for information about how teachers and healthcare professionals should interact effectively is in demand. This is exemplified by the fact that, joining Jamison at the conference is renowned psychiatrist Annelou DeVries, who specialises in the research and treatment of trans youth.
Speaking about the issue of understanding between trans children and young adults, Jamsion says: “Young people spend a large part of their time in school, and trans youth who are alienated from school frequently drop out, which impacts their employment prospects and ultimately leads to poor health outcomes.
Teachers are a crucial link to a child’s growth and self-esteem, which impacts their future success in life. Why should trans youth not benefit from the opportunities available to their cisgender peers?”
According to Jamison, if people attending the conference should take away one thing, it is that “marginalization of transgender health issues over the past has been a barrier for both trans people and for compassionate healthcare providers. We need to work together to create health care systems that are inclusive of trans people, and we can do it.”
With any luck conferences and the calm, professional exchange of information on trans issues will go some way to improving the standards of care and education they receive.
“[Trans people face] blatant discrimination, including physical and emotional abuse, when attempting to access health care and there is ignorance about how to treat trans people’s bodies either in transition or in ongoing care.”
Jamison reflects on what improvements he would like to see in the way trans people are treated.
“I want trans people to be treated with respect and dignity. I have met literally thousands of trans people from countries around the world, and while I have met people who have been horribly damaged by the way they’ve been treated, most of those I’ve met have been remarkable, resilient, and compassionate people.
They deserve to be treated like anyone else and not subjected to ridicule, neglect, or violence simply because they may have an unusual appearance or because they have a trans history.”
The conference will be held in the Tjarnarsalur room of Reykjavík City Hall on Saturday, September 17th from 10AM to 5PM. More here.
Photo: Master Portraits by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders