In addition to "working the floor" I also teach nursing, and two of my students this past week posed an excellent question. I had my (second year) students working on taking patient health histories, and the following question came up: If a nurse has a patient whom s/he suspects is transitioning from one gender to another (and the patient hasn't disclosed this information), how does one respectfully ask if a) this is indeed the case, and b) how far along is the patient in their process of transition. Additionally, when is a transgendered individual considered to be anatomically male/female? (I'm assuming that hormone therapy and surgery have been done). Finally, one more question: for transgendered individuals who have not yet made the physical transition, and even though they're using, say in this case a female name, when all of their ID is still in their birth/male names, I'm assuming that this patient would be identified for medical purposes as "male," even though he wishes to be addressed and treated like a woman (or vice-versa in the case of a woman transitioning from female to male).
Curious to know what others think!
As for the situation in which the person has not disclosed, I would first ask what makes the student suspect that the person is indeed transitioning?
Many folks are transgendered naturally - that is possessing characteristics of both genders at birth. Some have come to be comfortable with that and do not chose to change their physical being to fit cultural norms.
There is a website - Butch-Femme.com - that has a forum on gender theory. You may not find answers - but it might give an idea of how transgendered folk view themselves. It's a complicated subject.
Fair warning, however ... as on this site, posters there pull no punches and do not tolerate either homo- or trans-phobia. Anyone surfing there needs to pull up their grown-up pants and expect to read things they may not be used to seeing discussed in a public forum. All are welcome, but must, obviously, be respectful of the community.
Last edit by heron on Sep 23, '10
: Reason: wording change