Join us in celebrating Transgender Awareness Week from November 13 to 19 as we learn more about advancing advocacy for our LGBTQ+ colleagues and news from our PRIDE Network employee resource group (ERG).
As part of our ongoing efforts to acknowledge our diverse team members and create a more inclusive work environment, we recently spoke with Andy, a genetic counselor at LabCorp, who has been developing a pilot series of sensitivity trainings to teach our team members to be empathetic and thoughtful about gender identity. Learn about Andy’s quest to help our colleagues improve their work with transgender patients and provide our enterprise with more information about supporting transgender people.
Recognizing the need to bridge an information gap
When a prenatal genetic test needs to be interpreted, Andy helps interpret test results and counsel parents on their health or pregnancy. Last year at a conference for trained genetic professionals, Andy attended a presentation called “Genetics Beyond the Binary” that discussed genetic counseling for trans and non-binary patients.
“I’d never heard anything like that addressed in the genetics world before this presentation,” said Andy. “This topic is something that I have a very close personal connection to and a lot of knowledge about because beyond my profession, I am a gender-fluid, non-binary person and my partner is a trans woman.”
At the conference, Andy chatted with a colleague and they discussed the value of creating a similar training internally for LabCorp genetic counselors. When they returned from the conference, Andy teamed up with another genetic counselor with experience supporting transgender patients in cancer clinical settings to develop their first training. Soon, Andy was asked to collaborate on another training specific to prenatal genetic testing.
“After I gave the first talk, it got through the grapevine and there was more interest. I saw that there seems to be a big gap and a desire for more information,” explained Andy.
Normalizing they/them pronouns
Andy, who uses the pronouns they/them, she/her or he/him, explained what it means to be a gender-fluid, non-binary person.
“I consider myself to move fluidly along the spectrum,” they explained. “I consider maleness, femaleness and neither to all be aspects of my gender at different times. However, many non-binary people feel strongly that they want one pronoun to be used for them – and that’s extremely valid. I am not one of those people. I am happy when people use she/her, they/them or he/him; but if you were going to pick one pronoun for me, I think it is helpful to normalize the they/them pronouns.”
For someone to be an ally or to provide great healthcare to transgender people, Andy stresses that the culturally accepted language is changing – but you don’t have to memorize all of the language associated with gender identities.
“There are so many different type of identities, and the language is evolving over time,” explained Andy. “You don’t need to know what all of these identities are. You just need to know that non-binary people don’t identify as one thing or the other and understand the unique needs of this patient population.”
Educating providers about transgender individuals
By educating providers about the terminology associated with transgender and gender non-conforming people, Andy is hoping this awareness will help people learn how to be respectful and understand how stigmas and societal bias have created barriers to healthcare.
“Trans is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is just different from the sex that they were assigned at birth,” Andy explained. “For a lot of trans people, they avoid seeking out medical care for fear of stigma. One study has shown that around 20 percent of respondents who were trans said that they’ve been refused medical care outright just because of being trans, and a quarter of transgender individuals have delayed or avoided necessary medical treatment out of fear of being treated badly by their medical provider. Trans people often have to educate their provider in order to receive appropriate care and are asked inappropriate personal questions that are not relevant to their medical visit.”
By sharing these statistics, Andy hopes to help people understand that transgender people may feel uncomfortable or scared in medical settings and need healthcare providers to make them feel welcomed and safe.
“A gender non-conforming person might look a bit different than their medical records,” Andy said. “I want to make sure that medical professionals understand where transgender people are coming from. We need to have the basic knowledge to talk to them about their own identity and make them feel safe.”
Connecting with the PRIDE ERG
As Andy’s training developed, word reached our PRIDE Network ERG for LBGTQ+ team members and their allies, and the group asked Andy to host a training for New York-based employees, like phlebotomists, working at LabCorp patient service centers.
“It was certainly not my expectation when I joined LabCorp that there would be this environment of welcoming and seeking out this kind of information,” said Andy. “I feel very, very lucky to work for a company that is having these conversations and training.”
Andy also has felt supported after disclosing their gender identity as part of the training.
“Part of my presentation is being open about who I am,” they said. “I was a little bit scared of how that would be received. It’s been pretty mind-blowing how accepting and lovely everybody has been. I get to be openly myself and that’s been a huge silver lining for me.”