Upset that NHS forms have more than two gender options? Mind your own business

Just choose the one that applies to you and move on with your life.

Upset that NHS forms have more than two gender options? Mind your own business
Metro Columnist Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir sat on a step
It’s not like including some people takes something away from others (Picture: Sharon Kilgannon)

Recently, I saw someone online complaining about a supposed NHS form they had to fill in.

It had, in their opinion, ‘too many options for gender’. They proceeded to list the options ‘male’, ‘female’, ‘non-binary’, ‘transgender female’, ‘transgender male’, ‘genderfluid’, ‘demigirl’, ‘demiboy’, ‘other’, and ‘choose not to disclose’ that it had on there.  

This, they went on to complain, wasn’t relevant to health care.

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at their words. What exactly is the problem with giving people more choice, rather than less? 

Surely the whole point of forms is to gather accurate information about who people are, so you can give them a better quality service?

Whether or not it’s an NHS form isn’t really the point either, nor, indeed, is how ridiculous people might find some of those terms. 

Just choose the one that applies to you and move on with your life. It really is that simple. A multiple-choice question on a form is hardly the end of the world.

For the people it actually applies to, it feels incredibly positive and affirming, and makes them feel like they will be respected as who they are, and will get the care that they need. How anyone can find that a negative thing is baffling.

In my experience, it’s always people who’ve had the luxury of always being thought of that are upset about others being involved

Inclusion on forms is a topic that I see pop up regularly on social media or in media debates where people get offended that others with different experiences and identities to them are being involved.

Sometimes it’s out of ignorance and people not understanding why it’s important.

But other times, it can be by people who simply have a problem with trans people, and will protest against anything that even attempts to consider them, regardless of how small it might be.

Regardless of the reason, I still fail to see how it negatively affects anyone. It’s not like including some people takes something away from others. 

It’s about giving everyone equal respect and acknowledgement, and if that offends you, then it’s you that’s the problem, not the people who’ve just been included.

Metro Columnist Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir/Credit: Sharon Kilgannon
Asking questions about people’s identities is important (Picture:Sharon Kilgannon)

In my experience, it’s always people who’ve had the luxury of always being thought of that are upset about others being involved as well. It’s a very self-centred point of view, undeniably coming from a place of privilege and lack of awareness of what it feels like to be excluded.

The main reason organisations try to be inclusive in forms is probably because they’re aware they have people using their services who are trans in some way, and they want to be respectful.

Because it’s a certainty that services like the NHS will have all sorts of people with different lived experiences as patients, including trans people. All organisations and service providers will. And they need to appreciate this fact.

I’ve definitely seen my share of forms that have attempted to be inclusive, but just end up becoming clumsy and messy. But I still applaud those that at least try, because there are far too many places that don’t even bother having more than two options, leaving non-binary people in particular out in the cold.

We can only improve by trying, and sometimes trial and error is an important part of that.

Thankfully there are many organisations out there that consult people on the correct wording and options to use on their forms. I think, in fact, more people should take advantage of the expertise out there. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

In order to make sure organisations are giving trans people – and indeed, everyone – a good service, they need to make sure that inclusive options are available, so they can gather the correct information and provide everyone with a good quality service.

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That’s why asking questions about people’s identities is important. Regardless of what critics might say, it helps staff provide a better quality service where they can better understand people’s identities and address them appropriately.

Forms can still ask questions they need to regarding people’s physical characteristics without making a huge deal of it. For example, they can simply ask if their identity is the same as they were assigned at birth. Depending on the person’s answer, they may already have the information they need.

And this can be vitally important.

Because, while sometimes people need help because they got an infection, or they’ve twisted their ankle, and your gender identity has nothing to do with it, on other occasions, trans people might have specific needs or specific issues that need to be addressed. In a medical context, their care might look different, depending on what type of care they require.

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As an example, trans men or trans masculine people who haven’t had a hysterectomy still need to have things like cervical screenings, and their anatomy might look a bit different or need specific considerations when care is provided. That’s why making sure these services are inclusive is important to make sure everyone seeks them and gets checked.

At the end of the day, service providers offering a list of identities for people to choose from is a positive step in the right direction, to make sure everyone is included and able to use the services they need without feeling like they are facing barriers or won’t be given high quality service.

We can’t build a society based on exclusion.

People should really learn to be more concerned with themselves, rather than getting upset about other people getting a seat at the table, too.

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