I'm sure that some people must imagine that because I am a therapist that I can scoot around the Standards of Care and get what I want using my professional connections with other professionals who work with trans people, but I don't believe that would be in my best interest for my own health care. So I abide with the Standards of Care in my own life. Would you want to have open heart surgery by a doctor who didn't have a standard of care for that procedure?
I have been an advocate for the Standards of Care long before I became a member of WPATH. I know that some people deeply resent the existence of a standard of care and being required to follow a process. Consider this though; The National Center For Transgender Equality (Transequality.org) and The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force commissioned a survey that reported a number of terribly sad statistics of what many of us have experienced, some things I have personally experienced over the years. 41% of trans people who were surveyed had attempted suicide at least once as opposed to the general public whose rate of attempted suicide is only 1.6%. For those of us who are unemployed, lost a job due to discrimination, or have been forced into sex work, the rates are much higher and for people of color the attempted suicide is 49%. I find these rates appalling and unacceptable.
Addiction and substance abuse are also terrible problems for us. 70% of the survey reported current problems with substances overall. 3% have been denied access to substance abuse treatment programs and 4% have experienced mistreatment while participating in substance abuse treatment programs. As a professional who also has spent a significant part of my practice in substance abuse treatment, I recognize that it can be absolutely crucial to catch a person at the moment they are willing to get into treatment or that moment will be lost and not come around for quite a long time, if ever. If you miss that opportunity, it could literally be fatal. 25% experienced either denial of care or being treated poorly by doctors' offices or hospitals and 16% were denied help or were mistreated in emergency rooms. 12% reported denial of help or were mistreated in mental health clinics. Simply unacceptable.
Another reason to seek out healthcare professionals who use the framework of the Standards of Care is because of the discrimination we face from healthcare professionals which bothers me quite a bit both personally and especially as a health care professional. Professionals who use the standards to guide practice will likely have a network of local health care providers who can be sure that you have equal access and are treated with the dignity any person is due.
Half of us report we have had to educate health care professionals on our needs and how to treat us. Fortunately, there is a national effort directed by the National Institutes of care to educate the health care community to provide us with competent care. Having WPATH's Standard of Care, provides health care professionals a quick way to get up to speed on how to work with trans people.
One of the pitfalls that some health care professionals fall into is solely relying on the standards and not tailoring them to the needs of the individual. The SOC clearly state that they are not to be rigidly used and state they are a guide to practice. They were not meant to be followed by rote with each patient. Often in the beginning of the learning curve, a professional will tend to rely on them more often ver batim, but as experience is gained the professional often feels more comfortable in relying on their own clinical judgement. I think that I would prefer a practioner who followed them as written rather than practicing in ignorance and possibly making a serious mistake in my own care.
SO all in all, I think having the WPATH SOC benefits us and that is why I use them personally and professionally.