What Doctors Should Know About Discrimination Based on Sexuality

Two recent commentaries help advance the understanding of sexuality and transgender people with regard to discrimination and potential implications for health care.

Stroumsa et al note that about 1.9 million adults in U.S. identify as transgender. Key points:

  • This summer’s Supreme Court ruling in the employment-discrimination case Bostock v. Clayton County is likely to influence future court rulings regarding discrimination in health care coverage. “In the majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote, ‘It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.'”
  • Despite this favorable ruling for transgender persons, the current administration has tried to perpetuate discrimination on the basis of religious freedom. “The Trump rules stripping transgender rights from ACA protection are most likely invalid under Bostock.”
  • “The medical profession has an ongoing obligation to act..[to create] health care environments that are as welcoming for transgender and nonbinary patients as they are for cisgender patients.”

Shteyler et al discuss how birth certificate gender assignments can be detrimental. They note that birth certificates have changed many times to collect useful public information. One prominent feature has been a ‘line of demarcation’ in which there is legally identifying fields above the line and deidentified fields (eg. race, marital status) below the line which are reported in aggregate. They argue that sex assignment should be deidentified. Key points:

  • “Designating sex as male or female on birth certificates suggests that sex is simple and binary when, biologically, it is not.”
    • ~1 in 5000 people have intersex variations
    • ~1 in 100 exhibit chimerism, mosaicism, or micromosaicism, “conditions in which a person’s cells may contain varying sex chromosomes”
    • ~6 in 1000 people identify as transgender. “Others are binary, meaning they don’t exclusively identify as a man or a woman, or gender nonconforming, meaning their behavior or appearance doesn’t align with social expectations for their assigned sex.”
  • “Only 9% of transgender people who want to update their gender on the documents succeed in doing so.”
  • “Leaving any sex designation visible on birth certificates sacrifices privacy and exposes people to discrimination.”
  • Medical providers have a duty to help policymakers understand the science and to make sure that “medical evaluations aren’t being misused in legal contexts.”

My take: When I was a child/adolescent, I barely had any concept regarding the spectrum of sexuality. Though, it was easy to see many individuals who were ostracized due to their differences. As a medical provider, I see children/teens whose sexual identity is homosexual, transgender, or nonbinary. I think it is a sign of progress that there is more acceptance to the variation in sexual identity but much more is needed.

On another hot button topic, David Brooks explains why programs aimed at reducing racial discrimination don’t work: 2020 Taught Us How To Fix This “The superficial way to change minds and behavior doesn’t seem to work, to bridge either racial, partisan or class lines. Real change seems to involve putting bodies from different groups in the same room, on the same team and in the same neighborhood.”