Kate Hutchinson is the Director of Wipe Out Transphobia and a facilitator for All About Trans. Here, she reflects on meeting with GMC staff last year as part of All About Trans’ series on trans people’s experiences of healthcare. 

When I found out who All About Trans was planning an interaction with in October, I jumped at the chance to facilitate the session. Myself and a group of trans and non-binary people were to meet with the General Medical Council (GMC) in London.

This meet-up was part of All About Trans’ series of interactions that focuses on trans people’s experiences of healthcare. A small number of these events will take place across the country with healthcare and media organisations until February 2017.

This was our second interaction of a series which focuses on the barriers to healthcare faced by trans people, with the interaction team in Leeds having previously met with NHS England.

I kicked off the day by welcoming GMC staff, who came from the Regional Liaison Service, Standards, Education and Equality and Diversity teams. The group had come prepared, having watched Kate Adair’s “Trans 101” video resource, shared with participants ahead of the interaction.

GMC staff and the trans and non-binary group then briefly introduced themselves, giving their names and pronouns. I explained why pronouns are so important for trans folks; you can’t always tell somebody’s gender identity by their appearance.

Kate opens the session by asking everyone to introduce themselves
Kate opens the session and highlights the importance of pronouns

Next, we split into small groups for a general chat, giving us a chance to get to know one another. I had an interesting conversation with one of the GMC’s Regional Liaison Advisers [PDF] about our shared love of rock music. We then came back to the group to talk about what we had learned from our conversations.

In this group discussion, an important point raised was that every trans person’s experience and transition is unique. It’s important not to stereotype people’s healthcare journey. Other conversations included Mermaids’ CEO speaking about supporting trans youth. A young Mermaids volunteer talked about hormone blockers being life-saving and empowering for young people.

Mermaids is a charity working with trans and gender questioning children and their families, and we were lucky to be joined by three representatives on the day.

Attendees make it clear that every trans person's experience of healthcare is unique
Attendees make it clear that every trans person’s experience of healthcare is unique

After the group chat, we had a shuffle around so there were new faces to talk with, more conversations to be had. This time we asked more directly about the key challenges that trans people might face in accessing healthcare and thought about how the healthcare system can improve its practices to be more trans inclusive.

It was clear that GMC staff were eager to learn more about the barriers non-binary people may face when accessing healthcare. An example of the obstacles include some people feeling they must falsely assume a binary identity to get any sort of medical treatment: they feel their identity is not seen as valid by some medical professionals. This led to a discussion about inconsistent knowledge within primary healthcare across the country about trans issues, and the need for improvement and education overall.

GMC staff talk to attendees
Attendees talk about the barriers non-binary people may face when accessing healthcare

The day felt very positive, lots of open minds and innovative ideas, including talk of the GMC potentially developing trans case studies to be used in training. They wanted to take learnings and examples from the day to share with doctors.

The representative from the GMC’s Equality and Diversity team said she would be keen to use the learnings from the session to inform other awareness-raising activities. She suggested that developing case studies for staff training may help to foster understanding and challenge stereotypes, myths and misconceptions. The Standards team also wanted to develop case studies about trans people’s experience of health to educate medical professionals with their approach to trans healthcare. In general, the GMC was keen to explore further training opportunities.

Attendees listen to feedback from group discussions
Attendees listen to feedback from group discussions

Here’s what Ian McNeill, Head of the GMC’s Regional Liaison Service, which organised the session, said afterwards:

‘The event was both unique and powerful. It brought home to me and my team the huge challenges facing trans and non-binary people. Their experiences in accessing health services were enlightening and will help us when we are teaching doctors and medical students about our standards.

‘There is huge potential to develop the learning we gained here into case studies and other training tools so that we can highlight the issues faced by trans and non-binary patients to GPs, psychiatrists, surgeons, educators and medical students. The way this session was designed was engaging and impactful. I would highly recommend working with Kate and the team to anyone working in healthcare.’

Another great day. Bring on the next one. Let’s talk!

Kate Hutchinson, Director, Wipe Out TransphobiaIn her role at Wipe Out Transphobia, Kate has provided training and support for several organisations including Barnardo’s Cymru, Welsh Women’s Aid and the NHS.

She is a trustee of the Welsh LGBT charity Unity Group Wales, is a facilitator for All About Trans and has recently joined the committee of the LGBT education charity Schools OUT.  She is also a Stonewall Cymru Associate and delivers training on their behalf. 

Apart from her work for the LGBT+ community, Kate is a passionate rock musician and performs with two bands from opposite ends of the musical spectrum.