A new short film aims to show medical professionals how the healthcare needs of transgender and LGBTQ folks often go unmet, and how they can combat this.
The Get REAL Movement, a non-profit that works to combat LGBTQ2S discrimination, says The Clinic was made after learning that about 45 per cent of transgender and non-binary people have unmet healthcare needs compared to four per cent of the general population.
“The film is really meant to highlight the unique experience that a trans person may have accessing healthcare,” said Get REAL Movement leadership program lead and registered social worker, Max Denley.
The film follows two individuals — a transgender man and a woman — who both go to the doctor for similar stomach symptoms. The doctor prescribes the woman with a diet elimination to test for food intolerances, while prescribing the transgender man with an STI test.
Denley, who identifies as a transgender man, says many people who identify as non-binary or transgender can relate to having their health concerns dismissed and being prescribed a different treatment from others, despite having similar health concerns and symptoms.
“A lot of times what the kind of outside world sees about trans people is kind of a narrow view of the actual experience —it’s very much focused on surgeries and bathrooms, and being a trans human in the world is a lot more complicated than that.”
“We’re hoping to break some of that down a little bit and provide information on more well-rounded care, and other things that might be relevant to a trans person [and] might be relevant to a human in general, but sometimes get forgotten when caring for trans people.”
He has been working with the non-profit for over eight years. He says working as a consultant alongside medical professionals and other members of the LGBTQ community to get the film made has been gratifying.
“It’s great to see some of these messages coming to life in a really professional, put-together way.”
Intersectionality in marginalized communities
According to a report by the Standing Committee on Health, LGBTQ people in Canada overall have poorer “physical, mental and sexual health than their heterosexual counterparts.”
“Why is that the case? What is it about receiving healthcare that’s creating a barrier for people within this community?” said Courtney Allain, an anti-racism workshop leader with the organization.
“The answer is very obvious. It’s because the whole process and experience and simple things, like the language used… it’s harmful if it’s not done carefully.”
As a Black woman who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community, Allain said there’s a common theme between both groups when receiving health-care from medical professionals: many ignore the true symptoms and instead focusing on assumptions.
“The end result is that there’s a lot of undiagnosed health issues within trans communities and in racialized communities,” said Allain.
“Those moments of transphobia, racism and homophobia, they’re not always intentional. But they can be really harmful, and it’s just that lack of education, that’s what we’re really trying to combat.”
Allain grew up in Kitchener, Ont. She says the film helps open dialogue between the LGTBQ community and medical physicians from a bottom-up approach.
“We have to understand that we’re in the middle of change and sometimes it can’t always be — it shouldn’t always be — top-down,” said Allain. “You need to listen to people within the community to understand what their actual needs are.”
Allain provides workshops to schools across the country. In the local community, she’s witnessing the demand for inclusive, diverse and intersectional education grow.
“I was one of a few black students in my school, and that was pretty shocking coming from Toronto, and [I lost] access to things like the foods that we eat in Caribbean communities,” said Allain. “And I was pretty sporty as a kid. So people always called me a tomboy, they would ask me if I was gay, and I wasn’t ready to have that conversation or even really know about that stuff.”
“But now I’m seeing that the youth are just wanting this to have these conversations… and that’s great. We need to really encourage that.”