A Pocket Guide To The Gender Neutral Patient
This beginners “pocket guide” is a mini zine specifically intended to address the experiences of non-binary patients. However, gender neutral language is a great practice to create an inclusive space, regardless of a patient’s gender. This beginners “pocket guide” is a mini zine specifically intended to address the experiences of non-binary patients. However, gender neutral language is a great practice to create an inclusive space, regardless of a patient’s gender.
Non-binary: A term often used to describe a person’s experience of gender that does not fall into the categories of just man or woman. Many, but not all, non-binary people identify as transgender. And many, but not all, non-binary people use gender neutral language to refer to themselves.
You can not tell if a person is non-binary by looking at them. This means that giving patients the opportunity to identify themselves on paper is important for genuine and trusting patient/doctor relationships. What is your gender? What are your pronouns? Theses are two simple questions that can make a patient’s experience at the doctor’s office significantly less stressful.
But asking the questions isn’t enough! It is not uncommon for a non-binary patient to have to teach their healthcare providers how to address them. Often this is uncomfortable for both parties and causes unnecessary tension. (Did you notice the pronouns?). The next couple pages will further go over how to use the gender neutral pronouns they/them/their. In addition to other inclusive language that is beneficial in keeping the focus on the individual patient’s health needs.
[Image description: small black and white stick figure person]. Ryan is our non-binary patient with back pain. Their symptoms started on Friday after they slipped on the ice. We are going to do everything we can to help them today. This is an easy example for using the gender neutral pronouns they/them/their.
Some other examples of inclusive and gender neutral language: Referring to someone by their name, and things as “a” or “the”. “David is here for a flu shot” instead of, “he is here for his flu shot”. Using non-gendered descriptions: (singular: patient,person, individual) “The person with two children in the waiting room” instead of, ” The woman with two boys in the waiting room”. (Plural: patients, people, folks) “People with penises can wear condoms to prevent the spread of infection” instead of, “Men can wear condoms to prevent the spread of infection”.
The purpose of this zine is to open up a conversation about gendered language in healthcare. I want healthcare professionals to have the tools to confidently care for and respect non-binary patients without unnecessary language barriers. And as a non-binary person, I want to help create space for folks like me to receive medical care without sacrificing our identities. [unfold this zine for some more tips].
By: Roman Ruddick
[Backside of unfolded zine]
When first meeting someone that uses gender neutral pronouns it will likely take some practice and you may stumble! It is OK! Don’t give up, and don’t just hope they didn’t notice. A simple “sorry” followed by a quick correction is the best way to keep the focus on healthcare while letting the patient know that you care. Here’s an example: “Alex is waiting for an x-ray. In the meantime lets get her- sorry- let’s get them to the lab for some bloodwork”.
Below is a guide to help determine if a question related to a patient’s gender is appropriate.
[Image description: A flow chart titled “Is It OK To Ask?”. The first question reads, “Will clarification help you to respectfully communicate with them about their health?”. The answer choices are “No”, “Yes”, and “Maybe”. The “Yes” option continues to ask, “Is it related to their care today?”. A “yes” to this question ends the flow chart at the statement, “it is OK to ask”. The “Maybe” option for the original question continues to, “Does it have to do with their sex assignment at birth, genitals, or transitional/affirming care?”. Both the “yes” and “no” answer to this question differ to the original questions “yes” answer, asking again, “Is it related to their care today?”. A “No” answer to this question or the original question ends the flow chart with the statement, “Don’t ask. If it’s not related to their care today it could be intrusive and unnecessary”.]
Copyright, 2019 Transgender Cancer Patient Project. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.