Competent Care for Transgender, GenderQueer and Non-Binary Folks
A Resource for Herbalists and other Practitioners
Curated by Clinical Herbalists Vilde Chaya Fenster-Ehrlich and Larken Bunce
Herbal medicine has always been the medicine of the people, a medicine of resistance, and it is time once again to sharpen our skills and engage our hearts in service of collective liberation.
This site is a companion to a presentation given at the International Herb Symposium in 2017. It can't possibly be comprehensive, but we hope that it will serve as a solid starting place for anyone who wishes to become more competent in caring for transgender, genderqueer, and non-binary clients and to further efforts to support American herbalism in becoming more inclusive, respectful, and safe for all of us.
Trans women and men, intersex and non-binary people, and especially trans women of color, are subject to psychological, physical, economic and institutional assault in our society. Herbal medicine could be a powerful tool to help trans communities address gaps in health care and better manage the impacts of this stress and violence. Unfortunately, many of the ways we practice and teach herbalism create unwelcoming and sometimes hostile environments for trans and non-binary folks and make herbal medicine inaccessible to trans communities. Many easy changes—and a few more extensive conceptual shifts—can help make our practices and classes safer, empowering places for trans people.
We invite herbalists to consider their potential role in dismantling the healthcare (and other) systems that harm transgender clients. There is a lot to learn, and unlearn, and the process requires commitment and humility as many of us tread unfamiliar ground.
We offer these questions as a starting place for conversations in our class and for our field, going forward:
- How can we as herbalists get current with contemporary, inclusive understandings of gender?
- How can we create welcoming experiences for our trans community members as clients, students and fellow herbalists?
- What knowledge do we need to be prepared to address the needs of our transgender and non-binary clients?
- How can we be allies to the social justice struggles of trans communities?
- How can we develop self-awareness of our blind spots and biases?
There are no tidy, short answers to the above questions, however, in the interest of supporting herbalists to take some concrete steps, we’ve come up with a summary of foundational practices and perspectives to adopt, with some tips specifically for practitioners and teachers. Please feel free to download and share!
Getting Healthcare While Trans…. Some Facts
The National Transgender Discrimination Survey (2012, p. 78) gathered the following disturbing data about transgender clients’ experience with healthcare in the US:
28% had been subjected to harassment in a medical setting
26% had been physically assaulted in at least one healthcare setting
24% had been denied equal treatment at a doctor’s office or hospital
19% had been refused medical care due to being transgender or gender non-conforming (the rate was higher for transgender people of color)
13% had been denied equal treatment at an emergency room
10% had been sexually assaulted in at least one healthcare setting
28% are out to all medical providers
50% reported having to teach their medical providers about transgender care
However, the Survey goes on to highlight the resilience of respondents, as well. “Despite all of the harassment, mistreatment, discrimination and violence faced by respondents, study participants also demonstrated determination, resourcefulness and perseverance. Although the survey identified major structural barriers to obtaining health care, 76% of transgender respondents have been able to receive hormone therapy, indicating a determination to endure the abuse or search out sensitive medical providers” (p. 13).