A woman has complained to Britain’s National Health Service after she was assigned a transgender nurse to do her pap smear. The patient had specifically requested a woman to perform the procedure, and was embarrassed when the nurse was a transgender woman.
According to the patient, the nurse had a deep voice and stubble and was clearly a biological man. What became apparent to the woman was that the nurse’s comfort in being able to identify in her preferred gender seemingly overrode the patient’s comfort in wanting a female nurse – someone who shared the same genitalia – to be the one to conduct such a sensitive test. The patient stated:
People who are not comfortable about this are presented as bigots and this is kind of how I was made to feel about it.
(It’s) weird where somebody says to you 'my gender is not male' and you think: 'well, what does that even mean? You're clearly a man!
After being made to feel uncomfortable, the woman decided not to have the test performed.
Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust commented on the situation:
We apologised to this patient for the recording error and because the staff member accepted they didn’t manage the situation appropriately or professionally; the patient needed to feel listened to.
Trust policy for all services is to consider seriously all requests for clinicians of a particular gender; it allows patients to feel more supported; we will deny a request if we believe it to be sexually motivated or where there might be a risk to a member of staff, but we will always explain ourselves."
But the patient’s problem was not that she did not “feel listened to” but instead that she was not listened to.
The encounter illustrates the consequences for the average person of the streamlining of transgender rights that immediately followed the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the UK. A patient should not be made to feel uncomfortable for a sensitive procedure because a clearly biological male insists that he is a woman.