Act Like a Woman? Get Worse Treatment. Even If You're a Man.

Doctor's speech bubble should read: "You look and act like a lady. I'm sure you just need to calm down."

Doctor's speech bubble should read: "You look and act like a lady. I'm sure you just need to calm down."

I've been asked a few times now if I accept submissions from trans women. Answer: of course I do! So please, if you're a trans woman and you've experienced medical discrimination, I'd love to help you share your story.Click the "Share Your Story" link at the top of this page. This question made me think of one of the more recent studies done on medical discrimination.

Whether women are discriminated against because of their sex (biological or physical characteristics) versus their gender (behaviors, roles and expectations in society) had not been studied until this past year.

In a fascinating study, a group of researchers looked at a sample of 1,000 patients who had a heart attack in Canada, the US, and Switzerland. In this study it was found that men received faster access to cardiac care than women.  For example, the average time it took men to get an electrocardiogram was 15 minutes compared to 21 minutes for women. (That's a 29% difference, if you care to do the math, which I did.) 

While some patient factors--such as an absence of chest pain--caused a delay in treatment for both sexes, the presence of anxiety was only associated with a delay in treatment for women. (This is backed up by other studies which show that when women present with anxiety, doctors tend to think this proves she's just having a panic attack and therefore isn't having a heart attack, whereas when men present with anxiety, doctors tend to believe that this suggests their anxiety is causing them to have a heart attack. I'll discuss these studies in a later blog post.)

Here's the really fascinating aspect of this study. The researchers gave all the participants an inventory that measured how closely they hewed to stereotypical gender roles. It was found that both women and men with more stereotypically female traits faced more delays than patients with more masculine traits. 

Thus, it isn't just that doctors are discriminating against anyone with lady parts. They're discriminating against anyone who acts like a lady, regardless of sex. (Or really, both factors contribute, so even if you act more masculine, ladies, fret not; you'll still be discriminated against.) 

So congrats men: you can get in on the discrimination too! I'm sure that's what you've always wanted to hear.