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Passing the mic to transgender patients

Speaking to friends made Peter Kelly realise that more training on medication for transgender patients would help empower pharmacy teams to deliver even better care

It is trans awareness month, so I decided to ring up a couple of friends and interview them on their experiences of using their local pharmacies. The first person I spoke to was the fabulous comedian, Jen Ives. I have gigged with Jen many times. She is very funny; if you get a chance, go and see her perform.

Talking to Jen, she explained that, as a transgender woman, she will be on medication for life, so she goes to the pharmacy a lot. She said her pharmacy is very good and, overall, her experiences with pharmacies have been positive. Her only gripe was medication shortages.

Read more: How to feel more confident dealing with transgender patients

We as pharmacists all know the frustration of medication shortages and hormone medication has been affected more, it seems, than nearly any other category of medication. Jen explained how the journey to transition is long and when you first start taking hormone medication, it can take a long time to see results.

Medication shortages can be alarming for those who depend on those meds and she said it feels like a setback.

She said it would be great if, when there are medication shortages, that pharmacists and doctors were able to liaise to provide alternatives.

I found this interesting as while we do sometimes do this, sometimes we may drag our feet a little as we are under other time pressures and we may not be fully tuned in to the impact these shortages can have on patients, which can be very upsetting.

While I was talking to Jen, I realised I have never had any formal training on the medication used in transitioning and why it is used, for example. I naively thought you took hormones, had an operation and then no longer needed to take hormones. But it is not that straightforward.

Many transgender women will always have to take the hormones and some will never have an operation. I think it would be very useful for us to have a learning module on transgender medication. This could be an idea for the Pharmacy Quality Scheme for next year.

Read more: LGBTQ+ charity launches free resource on inclusive pharmacy practice

I then spoke to Donna Landy. Donna is also a comedian based in Devon and said her medical care as a transgender woman has always been brilliant. She picks up her prescription every month and while she was worried when she heard about medication shortages with her hormone medication, her pharmacy somehow managed to keep her in supply and even organised an appropriate alternative with her doctors when needed.

Personally, I think there is a lot of ignorance and misinformation around the science of gender transitioning. I believe the discussions and debates and the way transgender women are portrayed in the media and online is often very at odds with the transgender women I have interacted with and spoken to in the pharmacy.

I believe the solution to ignorance is always education, so I think it would be very helpful if we as pharmacists were better educated on this.

Read more: LGBT+ in pharmacy: pride despite prejudice

We could then play a role in educating the wider community. It was nice to hear both Jen and Donna felt well served and treated by their local pharmacies. But we still have a long way to go as a society.

I often hear people say outlandish things about transgender issues that I know are simply not true, but I am not educated enough on the issue to always confidently challenge them.

Science will always have to fight ignorance.

Peter Kelly is a pharmacist at Kamsons Pharmacy


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