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Trans-health group's new standards of care
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times
2011-10-05

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The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) released its new "Standards of Care" (SOC) for transgender people, the first update to the document in a decade.

The much-anticipated 7th Edition of SOC was released at the group's conference in Atlanta, Ga., on Sept. 25.

Transgender advocates have praised the new version, stating that it gives transgender patients more power in making decisions about their bodies and fewer rules about what gender transition should look like.

"The previous versions of the SOC were always perceived to be about the things that a trans person must do to satisfy clinicians, this version is much more clearly about every aspect of what clinicians ought to do in order to properly serve their clients," said Christine Burns, a committee member of SOC International Advisory, in a press statement. "That is a truly radical reversal ... one that serves both parties very well."

The SOC is the standard document used by healthcare providers regarding transgender care. Consequently, changes to the documents can have a significant impact on transgender people in the United States and beyond.

The latest SOC revision provides more information on transgender children. WPATH also said the 120-page document further de-pathologizes gender-variant people.

"More than any other version, 2011 revisions also recognize that gender nonconformity in and of itself is not a disorder and that many people live comfortable lives without having to seek therapy or medical interventions for gender confusion or unhappiness," the statement reads.

In its 7th edition, the SOC has also come out against "reparative therapy" as a way to change the gender identities of transgender people. The revisions also emphasize cultural competency and the need for doctors to become advocates to transgender people in healthcare and in society.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said that the revisions are a step in the right direction.

"Among the most significant features in the new Standards of Care include the recognition that gender nonconformity in and of itself is not a disorder and their strong affirmation that health insurance needs to cover medically necessary transition-related care like hormone therapy and surgery," Keisling said.

Transgender advocates have criticized the SOC in the past, arguing that the old standards were too strict and paternalistic.

As more people come out as transgender, many of whom no longer identify simply as "men" or "women," activists have increasingly argued that transgender people should have more control over their transitions. Under old rule, some transgender patients viewed their doctors and therapists as gatekeepers waiting to be convinced of the need for access to desired medical care.

Last year, Howard Brown Health Center introduced its Trans Hormones: Informed Consent program. That program, which allows transgender people to access hormones after just a few consultations, has been held up as a model for other health providers.

The WPATH revisions follow that trend towards an "informed consent" model, where patients may not need months to years of therapy or prove they have lived for a year as their desired gender before accessing gender-affirming treatment.

Lisa Mottet, transgender civil rights director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said she has yet to find a significant problem in the revisions.

"These standards are a great improvement," she said.

A full copy of the report and news release is available at www.wpath.org/index.cfm.


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