Trans Broken Arm Syndrome

Going in to a medical institution people expect to be treated with respect, this is not always true. If somebody goes into the hospital for a headache; they do not expect to be questioned about their genitals or sexual activity. There maybe a correlation between someone’s genitals or sexual activity and their headache but that is not an ethical place to begin any medical diagnosis. The goal of the Human rights Commission of Saskatchewan is to protect “your right to equality without discrimination based on the protected grounds of disability, age (18 or more), religion or religious creed, family status, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, race or perceived race, nationality, place of origin, ancestry, colour, receipt of public assistance, and gender identity.” Human rights are not removed when someone enters into a medical facility; however for many individuals in the Trans and Genderqueer community their human rights are ignored. When someone in the Trans community complains about their rights being violated it is typically met with ‘the doctor may need to know about your genitals.’

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that’s against the law. It is unwarranted sexual conduct that interferes with rights guaranteed by The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. Sexual harassment is not allowed in the workplace, at schools, colleges or universities, or in the provision of a public service. Customers in a restaurant for example, or patients seeking medical attention, or tenants renting an apartment are protected against sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment may be verbal, physical or visual. It may be one incident or a series of incidents. It is always unsolicited and unwelcome behaviour.

“Men and women have different perceptions of sexual harassment. What may be a lighthearted joke to many men may be offensive to many women.” Similarly Cisgender (Cis) people may think something is completely acceptable to ask another cis person, it however would not be acceptable to ask someone who is Transgender (Trans). Most people in the Trans community have stories about how this questioning has been taken to extreme points where a person who is Cis asks questions of an individual who is Trans that are not even appropriate to ask another person in the Cis community, such as ‘what do your genitals look like?’

Discrimination because of gender identity or gender expression is any action, intentional or not, that imposes burdens on an individual or group and not on others, or that withholds or limits access to benefits available to other members of society. Under The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, discrimination because of gender identity or gender expression is against the law in Saskatchewan.

The Trans Broken Arm Syndrome is a phenomenon that many people in the trans community face when they go to see a medical professional for some unrelated issue. Naith Payton at Pink News is credited with coining the term, after discussing with individuals in the trans community some of the things they have faced while dealing with medical professionals. Payton discusses how many medical professionals have delayed or even denied someone healthcare due to the fact that they are trans.

An example of something every individual in the trans community has been asked whether they are Assigned Male At Birth (AMAB), Assigned Female At Birth (AFAB), or even intersex would be “have you had the surgery?” It is simply asking “what is in your pants?” In very few circumstances is this an appropriate line of questioning. To use that as a diagnosis tool is similar to asking someone if they have been circumcised as a diagnostic tool for a headache.

Some in the Trans community have been questioned about their breasts “Are these real? Do you have implants or bra inserts? Do you plan on getting implants? Etc.” While others are asked “why would you want to get rid of your sex organs?” Or people in the Cis community sharing their opinions about their sex organs or sexual characteristics. When these questions come from a medical professional it is completely unacceptable. It is possible that there are reasons why a doctor maybe asking the questions that do not appear relevant at the time, but it typically has nothing to do with the reason why they are there. To have a medical professional sharing their views of their genitalia is not unheard of either.

If someone who is Cis went into the doctor about a headache they are not going to be asked about their genitals, sexuality, sexual history, etc. If someone who is Trans went into a doctor about the same headache they can expect to be asked questions about their genitals, sexuality, sexual history, trans history, etc. Because ethical treatment of people in the LGBTQ2S+ community is not taught to any great extent in any medical school and because a doctor has about a 0.5% chance of seeing a Trans individual in their practice does not excuse the doctor for treating someone with this disrespect. Doctors need to treat all patients with respect. They need to learn what respect looks like to Trans patients.

Furthermore to have the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission tell any individual ‘the doctor had diagnostic reasons to ask about your genitals’ is another form of sexual harassment. Although a section on Trans rights is written in to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code; it appears as if the Commission does not respect it. This section of the Code looks as if it was written with limited consultation of people in the Trans community. The section defines Transgender and Transsexual as two separate things; with Transsexual people being those who are seeking surgical intervention. Transsexual is a dated term that is rarely used as anything more than an insult.