The choice is yours

Students can now decide preferred pronouns when receiving health care assistance

Students may now select their own preferred name, pronouns and gender identity upon checking in at Birkam Health Center.

Ferris Birkam Health Center registered nurse Melissa Sprague said that the ability for students to make selections regarding their own identity was made possible with the help of Birkam’s Electronic Medical Record (EMR) vendor.

“Our experience caring for gender diverse persons may be limited, but it is important to us at Birkam Health Center that all of our students feel safe and supported while in our care. This is one way to ensure that patients feel respected,” Sprague said.

“I think that’s a good idea,” Ferris bio-chemistry junior Zack Hren said. “I mean, if you have a preference, I think you should be able to choose your preference. With the changes — I suppose, societal changes —that’s becoming a norm and I think it’s important to stay current.”

The change follows the opening of the LGBTQ+ Center in 2018, and many feel it has further contributed to making campus a safe and inclusive place for all students.

“The fact that Birkam Health Center now allows students to select their preferred name, accurate pronouns and gender identity is important because it means that Birkam’s staff are committed to making Birkam welcoming and accessible to FSU’s transgender community members, and this is one less barrier between our trans community members and competent, respectful health care,” Ferris LGBTQ+ Resource Center Coordinator Sarah Doherty said.

In a university-wide notice announcing the change, Doherty said the process lasted multiple months, and that the implemented change is wonderful news.

“There are signicant health disparities between transgender and cisgender people, in no small part because the transgender community faces widespread discrimination, and trans people often experience discrimination — including deadnaming, mispronouncing and misgendering, denial of care and overt bias — in health care settings,” Doherty said.

According to The New York Times, dead-naming describes purposely referring to a transgender person by their former name, and misgendering is referring to someone with a pronoun that they do not use.

According to National Public Radio, 2017 national data revealed that 31 percent of transgender people did not have regular access to health care and nearly a quarter of transgender people avoided going to the doctor, despite needing care, for fear of discrimination.

“I think that’s a pretty alarming number,” Hren said. “Health care providers, I think they get into the business to help people and, really, you shouldn’t have to choose whether or not you want to help someone based on how they identify.”

Ferris dental hygiene senior Johnell Clark said that the change might result in confusion for doctors and receptionists.

“I think it’s important that we’re all respectful towards each other, but I think it’s also important that students from the LGBTQ+ community not be super aggressive or offended towards people who get their gender pronouns incorrect, because not everybody is educated about that,” Clark said.