When Gender Identity Doesn't Equal Sex Recorded at Birth: The Role of the Laboratory in Providing Effective Healthcare to the Transgender Community

Zil Goldstein, Trevor A Corneil, Dina N Greene
Clinical Chemistry 2017, 63 (8): 1342-1352

BACKGROUND: Transgender is an umbrella term used to describe individuals who identify with a gender incongruent to or variant from their sex recorded at birth. Affirming gender identity through a variety of social, medical, and surgical interventions is critical to the mental health of transgender individuals. In recent years, awareness surrounding transgender identities has increased, which has highlighted the health disparities that parallel this demographic. These disparities are reflected in the experience of transgender patients and their providers when seeking clinical laboratory services.

CONTENT: Little is known about the effect of gender-affirming hormone therapy and surgery on optimal laboratory test interpretation. Efforts to diminish health disparities encountered by transgender individuals and their providers can be accomplished by increasing social and clinical awareness regarding sex/gender incongruence and gaining insight into the physiological manifestations and laboratory interpretations of gender-affirming strategies. This review summarizes knowledge required to understand transgender healthcare including current clinical interventions for gender dysphoria. Particular attention is paid to the subsequent impact of these interventions on laboratory test utilization and interpretation. Common nomenclature and system barriers are also discussed.

SUMMARY: Understanding gender incongruence, the clinical changes associated with gender transition, and systemic barriers that maintain a gender/sex binary are key to providing adequate healthcare to transgender community. Transgender appropriate reference interval studies are virtually absent within the medical literature and should be explored. The laboratory has an important role in improving the physiological understanding, electronic medical system recognition, and overall social awareness of the transgender community.

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