The inclusion of gender identity in the medical record is a welcome change
In December 2021, VA began including gender identifiers and preferred names in its national medical records system. The gender identity field in the medical record now includes the options transgender male, transgender female, non-binary, other, or do not wish to disclose. This is a welcome change for veterans who are transgender and of diverse gender identities.
“This change is going to take away a lot of anxiety for transgender veterans,” said Deedee Fulcher, a Marine Corps veteran and transgender woman who served for 12 years. “It can be very stressful sitting in the hall and someone shouting what we transgender people call our dead name, the name we had before.”
“Including gender identity in the medical record is a simple, yet extremely powerful and validating change,” explained Blaine Wilson, a licensed clinical social worker at Southeast Louisiana VA.
“It’s mentally helpful to be called by the sex you prefer,” said Shane Williams, a Navy veteran and transgender man. “Everyone wants to be recognized in the sense that we matter,” Fulcher agreed.
Builds trust between veterans and vendors
Using the right identity markers also builds trust between veterans and their suppliers.
Courtney Bounds is a social worker in Southeast Louisiana VA. She explained that the change to include gender identity in the medical record is an invitation to have the conversations necessary for mental health clinicians to provide appropriate care to patients.
“Asking questions about gender identity,” Bounds says, “helps start the relationship-building process. It helps providers avoid confusing veterans with gender. It can be an intense emotional experience for veterans. veterans whose gender identity has likely been a source of pain and distress.
Gender identity can also be critical information for specific mental health treatment. For example, Bounds explains that if a transgender or gender-diverse person seeks help with relationship issues, the social worker will have a better chance of helping if that patient is open about their gender identity.
“It’s a very positive change.”
Dana Walker is a primary care physician and Co-Coordinator of LGBTQ+ Veteran Care. She explains that the inclusion of gender identity and preferred names in the medical health record should help reduce the emotional fatigue that many transgender and gender-diverse patients experience due to the need to continually affirm their identity. .
“It’s a very positive change,” Walker said. “We want to make sure nothing stands between Veterans and the health care they deserve.
Adding gender identity to the health record will go a long way to ensuring that transgender and gender-diverse veterans feel accepted and have meaningful conversations with their providers.
“It’s nice to hear the correct pronoun and be recognized for who you are,” Williams agreed. “We just want to live our authentic lives. We want that little piece of peace.