On November 27th, The Kern Center Innovation and Design Series of Unexpected Conversation brought Charlie Blotner to speak for a lunchtime talk, titled “Establishing Trust in Healthcare: How the Transgender Community is Building a New Ecosystem for Health.” What made this talk interesting from the start is that Blotner brings a unique viewpoint as a transgender patient and a provider.
As a transgender patient and researcher, I’ve heard a lot of talks about healthcare. And most of them play out the same way: Use pronouns, gender neutral bathrooms, be considerate, treat trans people like human beings. You know, very basic human decency kind of talks. But this talk was different, and really talked more about the concepts of making our practice more transgender friendly in a general sense, and the trends that we should pursue not only at Mayo Clinic, but in the field of healthcare.
Charlie began his talk with discussing why we should care about gender, and how gender comes to be. Our gender, and our perception of gender is influenced by our location, access to language and safety. The compounding socialization that is required to think about gender is why we can’t talk about gender without talking about gender bias, or other biases. All of us grow up in different communities with different shared identifies, belief systems, experiences, and socialization. And at the end of the day, it is that socialization is going to impact the performance and perception of gender.
Unfortunately, many societies are socialized in a way that is hostile or discriminatory toward the transgender community, and that is also true for our healthcare. The next section of the talk started to actually talk about healthcare, mentioning how much of the transgender care information is disseminated through peer to peer contact, support groups online, tweets, and instagram posts. Many trans people use social media in order to record life and mental health for themselves, and for others going through the same thing. Blotner also brought up the lack of training for medical residents about working with transgender patients, with most of the training being attitude based interventions and not actual hands on practice.
“Gaps in medical education make the dissemination of intercommunity knowledge even more important”, Blotner said.
One of more sobering parts of the talk was when Charlie showed the audience a screenshot that he took on Mayo’s Office of Health Disparities Research. After entering ‘transgender’ in the search bar, there were zero results. Though this might simply be due to external vs internal facing pages, but why wouldn’t that be something we show externally? If we as a clinic can’t outwardly show our research, how canour patients know that we support them. If our providers aren’t supportive of the transgender community publicly, how do we know they are doing it privately? We still have a ways to go in creative a more diverse Mayo Clinic.
Blotner’s talk was a fresh take on transgender healthcare and how publicly supportive appearance, socialization, and training are what makes up the large part of what is important in transgender health care, and things that we can actively work on. We can actively show our support of our patients and work to increase the training of our patients, because just having a gender clinic isn’t enough. We need to grow our transgender healthcare practice from the Transgender and Intersex Clinic to the entire enterprise. And, hopefully this presentation continued to bring to light the importance of this conversation as we push Mayo Clinic to becoming more diverse and inclusive.
You can view Charlie’s talk here: