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Written By

Tianna Killoran


College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

17 May 2022

What is IDAHOBIT Day?

This IDAHOBIT Day on 17 May, JCU PhD Candidate Swapna Chaudhary is committed to understanding how we can equip pharmacists to provide the best care to transgender and gender diverse people and reminds us that much work still needs to be done to combat discrimination.

Swapna is researching the role of pharmacists providing healthcare to transgender and gender diverse people. She says International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT Day) on 17 May provides an opportunity for pharmacists to educate themselves and create awareness in the community about transgender and gender diverse people.

"IDAHOBIT Day is a day for pharmacists to focus on health promotion and particularly educate the rest of the community about the LGBTQIA+ community,” Swapna says. “This includes transgender people and people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, intersex, or asexual.”

“There’s a responsibility for pharmacists to create a safe environment for everyone,” she says.

Swapna also highlights the importance of creating understanding about diversity in the community. “The transgender community is as diverse as any other community. Transgender and gender diverse includes many gender identities, including non-binary, transmasculine, transfeminine, genderqueer, agender, sistergirl, brotherboy, and many more,” she says. “We need to learn the terminology and understand that gender is not a binary, such as male or female, but a spectrum.

“As healthcare professionals, we need to acknowledge that transgender people have always existed and when they visit a pharmacy or anywhere else, we need to provide them care in a respectful and culturally sensitive way.”

JCU PhD Candidate Swapna Chaudhary smiling and wearing a white jacket.
A circular painting with a white background and three flowers each in blue purple and red and has the words This is a safe space.
Left: PhD Candidate Swapna Chaudhary. Right: A painting made by Swapna's daughter that hangs on her office wall. Supplied by: Swapna Chaudhary.

An ally in pharmacy

After studying a Bachelor of Pharmacy with Honours at JCU, Swapna was excited and anxious to delve into her research, but says her supervisors made all the difference.

“I was very glad I contacted Professor Beverley Glass to be my primary research supervisor as she is very engaged in this research project. I’m really grateful that she’s so welcoming,” Swapna says. “Associate Professor Robin Ray is my secondary supervisor and has been very supportive and contributed to my growth as a researcher; I have been very fortunate to have great supervisors on my project.”

Approaching the research, Swapna says it was important to first educate herself and then build relationships with other healthcare professionals and members of the transgender community.

“I attended conferences, completed training, and used online resources,” Swapna says. “While attending these conferences and trainings, I was able to develop really good professional relationships with many other healthcare professionals such as GPs, sexual health physicians, pediatricians, and endocrinologists. It was a really great experience.”

Swapna says she took great care to listen and build relationships with the transgender community. “I attended some social functions and also an event that was arranged by the Queensland Council for LGBTIQ+ Health and Many Genders One Voice,” Swapna says. “It gave me an opportunity to listen to their needs, build relationships and develop an understanding of their perspectives, since I don’t have a lived experience.”

Swapna says connecting with many different people has been an invaluable part of her PhD. “It’s been a group effort, when I have been doing this research.”

Although Swapna emphasises that she is still learning every day, she was nominated for the 2021 Ally of the Year Award at the Trans Community Awards.

“It was fantastic to know my research is important to the transgender community. I felt so honoured and humbled, because I never thought this research would make such an impact on individuals."

JCU PhD Candidate Swapna Chaudhary

Pharmacists providing care

Now in the third year of her PhD, Swapna is focused on equipping pharmacists to provide the best care to transgender and gender diverse people.

“Pharmacists may want to treat their patients professionally, but sometimes they might be unsure about how to use pronouns properly, how to ask for preferred names, or may not feel very confident in their knowledge about gender affirmation treatments and other healthcare needs.”

To bridge this gap, Swapna’s research focuses on both pharmacists who deliver care and the transgender people that receive that care.

“I interviewed people who were transgender about their experiences in pharmacies and their expectations of pharmacists providing care,” she says. “I also interviewed pharmacists to find out about their perceptions of providing care to transgender people and their education needs in this area.”

Swapna is developing a training program for pharmacists and pharmacy students. “Based on the data gathered, we are going to develop a training program for pharmacists that will prepare them for providing appropriate and culturally sensitive care to transgender people.”

Swapna says the program will develop understanding of gender diversity, as well as how to address people who are transgender and use gender terminology appropriately. “Training will also include the pharmacological basis of gender affirmation therapies. Transgender people’s need for gender affirmation treatment is the most significant and it has been shown that access to gender affirmation therapies is lifesaving,” she says.

A room with a black lounge chair and a transgender and LGBTQI flag behind it and on the white coffee table in front of the lounge.
A name badge on a pink background that reads Swapna she / her and trans ally with the badge having blue pink and white stripes.
Swapna smiling and standing on the Strand in Townsville with the ocean and magnetic island in the background.
Left: The interview room Swapna set up in the JCU Pharmacy department with elements to create an inclusive and welcoming space. Top right: Swapna's badge with her name and pronouns. Bottom right: PhD Candidate Swapna Chaudhary.

Creating an inclusive and welcoming environment

“Pharmacists can create an inclusive, welcoming and safe environment,” Swapna says.

“Transgender people are just like everyone else and apart from gender affirmation medications, they also access pharmacies for all different types of healthcare needs,” she says.

Swapna highlights the importance of pharmacists understanding gender terminology and pronouns. “Using gender neutral language is really important. We also need to normalise asking patients for their pronouns and their preferred name.” Asking these simple questions means pharmacists can also avoid deadnaming a transgender person, which is the act of calling a person by the name they had prior to gender affirmation.

The physical space within a pharmacy is also an opportunity for pharmacists to ensure their patients feel safe and welcome. “For example, pharmacies could offer consultations in a private space because it’s important to avoid the risk of accidentally outing the patients to other staff and patients present in the pharmacy,” she says.

The small details of an inclusive environment are also important. “Pharmacies can create inclusive environments just by displaying LGBTQIA+ stickers or transgender flags or even brochures about inclusivity, which would ensure that members of the community feel welcome in the pharmacy.”

Swapna wants to see this cultural sensitivity training widely available for pharmacists. “We definitely need to support and promote professional development so that pharmacists can be confident and competent in providing healthcare to transgender people and LGBTQIA+ people.”

Want to learn more about IDAHOBIT Day or how to be a better ally? Swapna recommends Transhub and the Queensland Council for LGBTIQ+ Health to get you started.

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