Patient branded transphobic after asking for female medic The Sunday Times 08.12.19

The original article is here.

A woman who asked for her NHS breast-screening to be carried out by a female-born clinician was pilloried as a transphobe by a hospital trust.

Clare Dimyon, 54, who was raped as a teenager and is a lesbian, wrote formal letters asking to be seen by a “natal female” when she went for a mammogram on Christmas Eve last year.

She made clear that after being violated by a man when she was “little more than a child” she did not consent to intimate procedures being carried out by people born as boys.

Staff at the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust were “visibly shocked” but sympathetic.

The mammographer signed one letter confirming she was female and another letter was placed in Dimyon’s medical records. But two weeks ago she saw her letters highlighted by the trust as examples of “unacceptable” and “highly discriminatory” communications in guidelines to support trans patients and staff.

Her requests had been anonymised, but were not given any context. The trust failed to say that they were written before a mammogram, an intimate procedure.

This weekend the trust defended its stance. “It is not possible to guarantee to any patient that they will only be treated by a clinician assigned to a specific gender at birth and, as an organisation that prides itself on our commitment to diversity and inclusion, nor would we wish to do so,” it said.

In a statement, the trust stressed the importance of patients seeing the clinician with the most relevant skills, adding: “We have a duty to apply the same principles here as we would if a patient requested clinicians from particular backgrounds/ethnicities or any of the nine characteristics protected by law.”

In effect, the trust was arguing that for a woman to ask for an intimate examination by another biological woman was as offensive as to request a medic of a particular religion or skin colour. Under the Equality Act 2010 it is illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of nine characteristics. They are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

Dimyon, who was made an MBE for her LGBT work, said she was shocked because it was “long-standing practice to ask for a lady doctor or lady nurse”.

She said: “We have an examination which involves clinicians handling your breasts and placing them on a mammography table in order for those pictures to be taken. Even on the door they say ‘gentlemen stay outside’, meaning husbands and partners, I suppose, because they recognise this is an intimate examination.” She argued that screening rates for breast cancer would drop if women knew male-born clinicians could handle them.

“The NHS is spending a lot on trans training, so when is the awareness training going to start for survivors of rape and sexual violence?” she asked.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust said that it had now removed the letters from its equality and diversity guidance and was “very sorry for any offence or upset caused”.

It recognised “that for some patients having clinicians of the same gender is important, particularly if an intimate procedure is required”. It tried to meet those wishes and offered a same-sex chaperone or the rescheduling of an appointment if this was not possible.