AMA Adopts Crucial Policies To Support Trans Patients

by Naseem Jamnia
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Getting trans-sensitive medical care in the United States is exhausting and difficult. This isn't just true for psychological health or transitioning, but for finding gender-affirming physicians in general. Fortunately, at the American Medical Association (AMA) Annual Meeting from June 10 to 14, the AMA announced a set of trans-supportive policies.

The AMA is the largest association of physicians, residents, and medical students in the United States. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the AMA has previously been trans-friendly, despite the lack of general queer-friendly practices in the rest of the United States. The AMA has opposed conversion therapy, pushed for accurate identifying documents, and advocated for the medical need for transitioning. Given, however, that not all trans people do (or want to) transition or fit into the binary, these new policies, which focus more broadly on practitioner education and advocacy, are affirming for all of us.

The policies, adopted by the AMA House of Delegates (HOD), are meant to educate medical practitioners on trans issues and promote trans equality. One such policy apparently encourages practitioners to reach out to "appropriate organizations" in order to “inform and educate the medical community and the public on the medical spectrum of gender identity.” While the details of these and other policies are not yet available, it perhaps might resemble a policy last updated in 2012. Policy H-60.927 said that the AMA would partner with community organizations to reduce suicide risk among queer youth. This new policy could be proposing a similar partnership in order to educate the general public on trans issues.

Another policy opposes the prevention of trans people from "accessing basic human services and public facilities in line with one's gender identity," in direct opposition to those states which have bathroom bills. Indeed, the HOD stated that discriminatory policies cause “statistically significant increases in mental health and psychiatric diagnoses.” Such trans-affirming policies are in line with the AMA's values, given that the 2017 annual meeting held many different sessions addressing mental health issues.

The AMA Wire, the AMA's official blog, also discussed one other new policy, where the AMA works with the Food and Drug Administration on the evaluations of drug risks based on gender. The AMA wants to "take the focus away from gender identity and place it on reproductive potential." From what the AMA Wire says, this seems to mean stopping the practice of studying drug risks based on gender divides and instead base studies on the ability to become pregnant. Biological sex differences are scientifically tied to the levels of various hormones like estrogen and testosterone, but are colloquially tied to gender, so perhaps this policy is attempting to address that.

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Even without the exact details, these policies are heartening. As a non-binary trans person who was once a pre-medical student, it delights me that the AMA condemns the bigotry and trans-antagonism that's running rampant in the current administration, as evidenced by legislation like the bathroom bills. As someone designated female at birth, I am constantly misgendered, and the medical setting is no different. Having trans-sensitive care is a game changer, even for those of us who aren't transitioning.

While this is just the beginning step — some doctors find treating trans patients "against their conscience" — and does not mean an overnight change, it is still an important one.