The dilemma in healthcare

By- Chetana Rajesh

 4th year, MBBS student

A labyrinth of inequalities,

A web of overlooked subtleties,

Mistakes that glare,

Points out a dilemma in healthcare.

A voice that remains unheard,

A lesson that remind unregistered,

These mistakes that glare,

Constantly pointing out a dilemma in healthcare.

And although once in a while,

In a world that is mostly hostile,

Some voices emerge resilient,

Awaiting some sort of fulfillment.

The inequalities in healthcare are forever discussed but never really acted upon. One of the communities that perhaps bears the brunt of this inequality is the LGBTQIA+ community. In a society that is constantly battling gender stereotypes and taboo since time immemorial, the concept that both gender and sexuality are a spectrum has low acceptance.

A recent interaction with Anindita Kundu (she/they), a trauma therapist identifying as demisexual and non-binary, pointed these stereotypes beautifully. When asked about when she first became aware of her gender, she cited an incidence from her childhood where she was pulled up by her teacher for the length of her skirt. She went on to point out that that’s what frames our perception of gender. The clothes we wear, the way we speak, and not how we feel on the inside or what we want that frames society’s perspective of gender. Sexuality is perceived in a similar way within the confines of heteronormativity.

Now those reading this article must be wondering why the discussion on gender and sexuality is important or even relevant in healthcare. Well, to put it in the words of perhaps one of the loudest voices of the transgender community, Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju, says “When I got into med school five years ago, I was a confused queer kid. I called myself a different name, used different pronouns and I had this idea of Medicine being a noble, magical profession. Today, one dramatic socio-medico-legal transition, several failed friendships and relationships later, several dramatic twists and turns in my career later, I’m at a weird precipice again. I don’t know what my future will look like. I don’t know if I’ll make a successful doctor. I can’t name a single transgender doctor in India in the same position that I am – for reference, for comfort – to tell me it’s going to be okay.” If a transgender doctor does not perceive healthcare as a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community, it serves as evidence of a lacuna in healthcare. One that is far from filled.

Even in the midst of a pandemic, Dr. Aqsa Shaikh, the first transgender woman to head a COVID vaccination center echoes Trinetra’s concern, by throwing light upon the issues faced by the transgender community. She says: “When it comes to access to healthcare services, it is anyway difficult for the transgender community during usual times and to imagine how they might have accessed these services during the pandemic! Even if it meant a checkup for something as simple as fever, which was difficult. A lot of hospitals were converted into Covid dedicated centers and therefore even the number of facilities available for them decreased.

During any such crisis, the stigmatization and discrimination increases especially against the marginalised communities and the same happened with the transgender community. So the opportunity to go for dignified and affordable healthcare services was drastically reduced. We saw how the transgender community found it extremely difficult to access testing services, Covid isolation facilities divided into the binaries of males and females. We also saw how they were left lagging behind in the first few phases of vaccination — from booking slots to IDs with respect to use of name and genders, which is why the vaccination rate in the trans community has been four times lesser than the cisgender community.”

If these statements aren’t a reflection on why we need to foster a better more inclusive environment in healthcare or simply put a safe space , there is really nothing to be said. But the take home point is not really the reflections of people from the community. It is not the onus of the LGBTQIA+ community to educate us , to do lives and interviews for us to learn during pride month. The responsibility falls on us.

We have to learn, we have to educate ourselves, we have to open our minds to the spectrum of gender, to the spectrum of sexuality and if we are lucky enough to have someone from the community share their experience with us, it is important to draw upon their shared experience to work towards fostering a safer space in healthcare. That and not changing logos to represent rainbows, requesting the inputs from the community during pride month is a true celebration of pride. Let’s educate ourselves to foster a safer space!

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