Adverse Effects of Hospitalization on the LGBTQIA+ Community
I have been hospitalized twice due to my erratic mental health. My gender expression of gender non-conforming (outward expression different from societal gender norms) was not taken seriously during these hospitalizations. I was subjected to uninformed mental health professionals and demeaning mistakes due to the lack of knowledge or respect for my gender non-conforming presentation. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community deals with barriers to gender-affirming care regarding mental health and hospitalization often. These are just a couple of ways I was subjected to insensitive mental health care regarding my gender expression.
Hospitals Lack Gender Affirming Choices for LGBTQIA+ Community
My mental health begins and ends with my heightened anxiety and depression. These two mental health concerns are what caused me to end up in an inpatient psychiatric hospital. My increase of panic attacks coupled with self-harm and depression led me to voluntarily admit myself to treatment. I was unaware this would lead to being on high alert regarding my gender expression.
When you enter an inpatient psychiatric facility, you are usually required to give up your personal belongings until you leave. This includes the clothing you are wearing and your shoes. I was given a hospital gown when I first gave up my clothing. Then I was given standard-issue hospital clothing for my three-day stay.
This included a long dress-type nightgown and women's panties. I dress in a more masculine fashion but was offered this option due to the gender listed on my intake paperwork. The males in the unit were given a sweat pants suit and a pair of boxer shorts. When I requested to wear the men's clothing due to my level of comfortability, I was told that they could only issue clothing based upon my stated gender.
The ignoring of my gender expression and gender identity led me to focus on nothing else for my entire stay in the hospital. My anxiety became even more heightened. I could think of nothing but how uncomfortable I felt. The three days in the hospital were spent just trying to convince everyone I was well so that I could be set free and climb into clothing that made me feel comfortable.
LGBTQIA+ Community Struggles with Gender-Affirming Providers
Many of the doctors I spoke to during my hospital stay assumed that my more masculine choice of hairstyle and clothing meant I was dealing with a transgender crisis. I spent many meetings with psychiatrists trying to convince them that my gender identity and sexual orientation were not the basis of my mental health concerns. I tried to explain that my gender expression had nothing to do with my gender identity or sexual orientation. This meant we spent little time talking about my raging anxiety or depression.
Gender-affirming treatment is important. If our mental health professionals are not well-informed on the complexities of gender identity, sexual orientation, and the LGBTQIA+ mental health community, individuals will continue to receive biased treatment. It is also important to remember that gendering all things is a societal norm that no longer fits into our community.
The consequence of not providing gender-affirming care is the perceived and actual discrimination felt by LGBTQIA+ individuals. This can lead to the LGBTQIA+ community no longer seeking help for their mental health concerns.
You are never meant to leave a mental health provider feeling as if your gender identity or expression has been questioned. Only you can tell someone where you stand regarding gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender expression. Remember that you are meant to be comfortable when in a place of healing.
Have you experienced these situations, or similar, regarding gender identity or expression during a hospitalization?
Leave your experiences and thoughts below in the comments.
Nolasco, M. (2021, March 15). Adverse Effects of Hospitalization on the LGBTQIA+ Community, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, May 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/thelifelgbt/2021/3/adverse-effects-of-hospitalization-on-the-lgbtqia-community