Transgender Awareness Week is Nov. 13-19
It began as part of a broader effort to increase the visibility of transgender people and address the challenges they face.
To mark this year’s Transgender Awareness Week, we spoke with the Medical Director of Lahey’s Transgender Health Program, Jenny Reske-Nielsen, MD, MPH, to learn more about the program and discuss why it’s so important for gender diverse patients to have access to care that addresses their specific needs.
Tell us about the Transgender Health Program at Lahey
We established the Transgender Health Program in the spring of 2022. We offer both medical and surgical services in a safe and affirming environment. The patient care coordinator is the core part of our program. They help new and established gender diverse patients find the correct Lahey specialists and providers to help affirm their gender identity. Our program currently has over 400 patients.
In addition to caring for gender diverse patients, the program aims to increase cultural awareness and competency across Lahey, as gender diverse patients engage with all services and departments. There are many ways we are working to create a more inclusive environment for patients and staff. These include the use of pronoun buddy badges and making our single-occupancy bathrooms gender inclusive.
Why is it so important for gender diverse patients to have access to care that is tailored to their needs?
Gender diverse (the umbrella term for transgender and nonbinary persons) patients experience discrimination in various areas of life, including housing, schooling, employment and health care. Many gender diverse people have had poor experiences with the health care system. Our goal is to create an environment at Lahey where patients feel welcomed and respected so they can receive the care services they need and deserve.
In addition to providing inclusive care, we recognize that affirming our patients’ gender identity can be lifesaving. The goal of gender-affirming care is to help individuals live comfortably in their identity, giving them a significantly higher quality of life.
Gender diverse individuals may affirm their identity by how they style themselves, the pronouns or names they use, or through hormonal medications or surgeries. Every individual is unique and has different needs, and that’s why a multidisciplinary program like ours is critical to providing comprehensive support to all of our gender diverse patients.