Justice

Ben Carson Gets Transgender People Totally Wrong

Former presidential hopeful, neurosurgeon, and noted fruit salad enthusiast Dr. Ben Carson shared his thoughts on transgender people in an interview with The Hill on Monday at the Republican National Convention.

Carson asserted that being transgender "doesn’t make any sense."

“For someone to wake up and think that they belong to a different sex because they feel different that day is the same as if you woke up and said, 'I’m Afghani today because I saw a movie about that last night, and even though my genetics might not indicate that, that’s the way I feel, and if you say that I’m not, then you’re a racist.'"

This transphobic rhetoric is somewhat run-of-the-mill for a GOP politician — this year's Republican party platform has been hailed as the most anti-LGBT in the party's history, and spurred objections from Log Cabin Republicans, a group that advocates for LGBT-inclusivity within the GOP.

But the implications of Carson's comments are far more troubling when you take his history in the medical profession into account.

Transgender people experience major health disparities compared to cisgender people.

Transgender people are at far greater risks of suicide than their cisgender peers, yet research has also shown that supportive parents can play a major role in lowering the risk of depression and suicide among trans kids.

This suggests that these risks are at least partly a result of how our society misunderstands trans people and translates those misconceptions into the health care system and other areas of life.

Some researchers and advocates believe that these differences may be linked to the amount of time medical schools dedicate to educating students about LGBT patients and issues.

A 2011 JAMA study looked at 176 medical schools in the U.S. and Canada, and found that schools only spent an average of five hours on LGBT-related coursework.

“This is about being a good doctor, because a trusting relationship is not just about a patient’s physical or even mental well-being,” Dr. Mitchell R. Lunn, an internal medicine resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and one of the study's authors, told The New York Times. “It’s about learning who that patient is.”

The medical community is taking steps to address these issues.

In 2014, the Association of American Medical Colleges published extensive guidelines on teaching medical students about treating LGBT and gender nonconforming patients, Slate reports.

Recently, medical programs at Vanderbilt, Vermont, University of California, San Francisco, and the pilot eQuality program at the Louisville Medical School have taken steps to add more LGBT education into their curricula, the report adds.

[h/t the Hill]