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The Gender Diverse Patient and Physical Therapy’s Role

The number of individuals who identify as transgender is growing each year. The Williams Institute estimated in 2016 that 0.6% of the U.S. population or roughly 1.4 million people identified as transgender (Flores, 2016). This was a 50% increase from a 2011 survey which estimated only 0.3% or 700,000 people identified as transgender (Gates, 2011). Though these numbers are growing each year, due to increased visibility and social acceptance, it is presumed that these numbers are underreported due to inadequate survey methods, stigma/fear associated with “coming out” and deficient definitions of the multitude of options for gender identity (Flores, 2016).

With the rise of individuals who identify as transgender, gender non-binary and intersex, healthcare professionals have equally seen an influx of patients who require care throughout their discovery and transition. Though medical intervention for these individuals is not new, the first documented surgery was in 1922 to Dora Richter, it has often been segmented and lacking in evidence-based treatment strategies (“Dora Richter,”2019). In 1979 The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) was founded and published their first version of the Standards of Care (SOC) for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People (“WPATH,” 2019). Currently, WPATH is on their seventh version of the SOC which is opening doors for the treatment of this population.

Though organizations such as WPATH have attempted to standardized care, the patient experience and reception of quality care are significantly lacking. In 2015 the National Center for Transgender Equality performed a groundbreaking survey of 27,215 respondents with the aim to “understand the lives and experiences of transgender people in the United States and the disparities that many transgender people face” (“About,”n.d., para. 1). This survey revealed that 33% of individuals who saw a health care provider had at least one negative experience related to being transgender (National Center for Transgender Equality, 2015). Negative experiences included; being refused treatment, verbal harassment, physically or sexually assault, and teaching the provider about transgender people in order to get appropriate care (National Center for Transgender Equality, 2015). Alternatively, 23% of respondents did not see a doctor when they needed to because of fear of being mistreated as a transgender person (National Center for Transgender Equality, 2015). Though these statistics are staggering and affronting there is hope for a better future.

Research for the care of these patients, specifically related to pelvic floor physical therapy, is on the rise. In the Annals of Plastic Surgery, an article was published with the purpose to capture incidence and severity of pelvic floor dysfunction pre-surgery, monitor any progression of symptoms with standardized outcome measures and highlight the role of physical therapy in the treatment of patients undergoing vaginoplasty (Manrique, et al., 2019). While in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology a retrospective case series similarly focused on physical therapy pre and post-operatively highlighting dilator selection and success, pelvic floor dysfunction including bowel and bladder as well as reported abuse history (Jiang, Gallagher, Burchill, Berli, & Dugi, 2019). Through articles such as these clinicians can expect an uptick in calls questioning if they treat these patients. This begs the question of, "How can you best prepare?"

The answer is simple, attend continuing education. It is where you can not only learn evidence-based evaluation and treatment but also connect with other providers and mentors that care for these patients. In 2020 Herman & Wallace will be offering a continuing education course that serves this exact purpose. Keep your eyes on next years offerings, as spaces will surely fill quickly.


About. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2019, from http://www.ustranssurvey.org/about
Dora Richter. (2019, May 09). Retrieved May 15, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dora_Richter
Jiang, D. D., Gallagher, S., Burchill, L., Berli, J., & Dugi, D. (2019). Implementation of a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy Program for Transgender Women Undergoing Gender-Affirming Vaginoplasty. Obstetrics & Gynecology,133(5), 1003-1011. doi:10.1097/aog.0000000000003236
Manrique, O. J., Adabi, K., Huang, T. C., Jorge-Martinez, J., Meihofer, L. E., Brassard, P., & Galan, R. (2019). Assessment of Pelvic Floor Anatomy for Male-to-Female Vaginoplasty and the Role of Physical Therapy on Functional and Patient-Reported Outcomes. Annals of Plastic Surgery,82(6), 661-666. doi:10.1097/sap.0000000000001680
National Center for Transgender Equality. (2015). Annual report of the U.S. Transgender Survey. Retrieved May 15, 2019, from https://transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/usts/USTS-Executive-Summary-Dec17.pdf
Wpath. (n.d.). Standards of Care version 7. Retrieved May 15, 2019, from https://www.wpath.org/publications/soc

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Upcoming Continuing Education Courses

Jul 19, 2019 - Jul 21, 2019
Location: Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine

Jul 20, 2019 - Jul 21, 2019
Location: East Sacramento Physical Therapy

Jul 21, 2019 - Jul 23, 2019
Location: Rutgers University - Doctoral Programs in Physical Therapy

Jul 26, 2019 - Jul 28, 2019
Location: Bon Secours St. Francis Health System

Jul 27, 2019 - Jul 28, 2019
Location: Providence Healthcare

Aug 9, 2019 - Aug 11, 2019
Location: Robert Wood Johnson Medical Associates

Aug 9, 2019 - Aug 11, 2019
Location: Metro West Medical Center

Aug 9, 2019 - Aug 11, 2019
Location: Providence Holy Cross Medical Center of Mission Hills

Aug 16, 2019 - Aug 18, 2019
Location: WakeMed Health & Hospitals

Aug 16, 2019 - Aug 18, 2019
Location: BodyWorx Vitality

Aug 16, 2019 - Aug 18, 2019
Location: Piedmont Healthcare

Aug 16, 2019 - Aug 18, 2019
Location: Dignity Health Care of Stockton, CA

Aug 17, 2019 - Aug 18, 2019
Location: Ochsner Health System

Aug 23, 2019 - Aug 25, 2019
Location: PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center

Aug 23, 2019 - Aug 25, 2019
Location: Inova Physical Therapy Center

Aug 23, 2019 - Aug 25, 2019
Location: The Sage Colleges

Aug 23, 2019 - Aug 25, 2019
Location: Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine

Aug 23, 2019 - Aug 24, 2019
Location: Mizzou University of Missouri

Aug 23, 2019 - Aug 25, 2019
Location: Mizzou University of Missouri

Sep 6, 2019 - Sep 8, 2019
Location: Advanced Physical Therapy of Little Rock

Sep 6, 2019 - Sep 8, 2019
Location: Bon Secours St. Francis Health System

Sep 7, 2019 - Sep 8, 2019
Location: Franklin Pierce University

Sep 7, 2019 - Sep 8, 2019
Location: Spooner Physical Therapy

Sep 13, 2019 - Sep 15, 2019
Location: Huntington Hospital

Sep 13, 2019 - Sep 15, 2019
Location: Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital

Sep 13, 2019 - Sep 15, 2019
Location: Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine

Sep 13, 2019 - Sep 15, 2019
Location: Lee's Summit Medical Center

Sep 13, 2019 - Sep 15, 2019
Location: Princeton Healthcare System

Sep 14, 2019 - Sep 15, 2019
Location: Aurora Medical Center

Sep 20, 2019 - Sep 22, 2019
Location: Wesley Medical Center