During this latter portion of the week, I'm attending a three-day conference for providers vis-a-vis healthcare for the transgendered. Having had a number of transgendered patients over the years---and several friends and acquaintances---this was an opportunity that could not be missed.
As much as the gay and lesbian communities have gained relatively increased acceptance in this culture---although discrimination, both constitutional and popular, still abounds---the transgendered in this country lack even the most basic of rights and protections. When it comes to healthcare, the needs of this special vulnerable population are generally overlooked and disavowed. As a fringe group at the edge of society, it is often up to individual healthcare providers, mental health professionals, and sensitive business people to recognize the need for accomodation, recognition, and basic rights and dignity for those unheeded by government and society at large.
Americans seem to have no qualms with cross-dressing actors and sports stars who use drag as a method of economic gamesmanship, but real transgendered individuals are left in the cultural dust, bereft of a voice in the political arena and a seat at the proverbial table. That is changing, albeit slowly, and as the Trans and Intersex communities gain political strength and wider support, more protections and recognition will eventually be won. (Intersexed individuals are those born with "ambiguous" genitalia, a "condition" often treated as a medical emergency, the gender of the child chosen by the physician, often with devastating results.)
As a healthcare provider who has had a great deal of interaction with the transgendered community, I feel a certain duty and calling to position myself as an ally, and this conference is another way to feed my desire to do just that. As the notion of gender evolves, and the rigorously defended institution of a binary gender model slowly disintegrates, we all must eventually come to terms with the changes, embracing unprecedented inclusivity and sensitivity. If you're not yet there, educate yourself, and watch the paradigms shift.