Healthcare professionals are biased against trans people, according to new research.
Experts found medical professionals are less likely to get to know transgender folk personally, and nurses are more likely to conflate sex and gender identity.
Nurses were significantly more likely to back statements like “I believe a person can never change their gender” or “I think there is something wrong with a person who says they are neither a man nor a woman”, versus the rest of the population and other healthcare staff.
Nurses, doctors, and members of the public were shown images of well-known trans and cis-gendered people for a test designed by Harvard University.
Photos of model Naomi Campbell and actress Meryl Streep, both cisgender, were compared with actress Laverne Cox and former athlete turned-TV personality Caitlyn Jenner, two trans women.
University of Exeter and Coventry University researchers then analyzed participants’ implicit and explicit responses.
Harvard University tested tens of thousands of healthcare professionals and members of the public.
They looked at their implicit bias, which indicates their true beliefs that they may be too reluctant to share.
In doing so they found the average nursing professional was “slightly” biased, while the general population had little or no prejudice at all.
The team also tested their explicit bias, revealing healthcare professionals were more likely to have met a trans person, but they were less likely to have a transgender friend or family member.
Dr. Daniel Derbyshire, University of Exeter, and Professor Tamsin Keay, Coventry University, said: “Our finding that nurses have higher levels of implicit bias towards transgender people may be related to a tendency to conflate sex and gender identity, as shown by higher levels of agreement with transphobic statements that conflate these two distinct concepts.”
Referring to clinicians having fewer trans friends, they said: “This suggests that healthcare professionals’, both nurses and non-nurses, experience of interacting with transgender people may be largely confined to a work context.”
Experts used the widely accepted Implicit Association Test, which asks participants to categorize groups of people with ‘good’ words like “nice” and “laughter” or ‘bad’ words like “nasty” or “rotten.”
The analysis reveals their ‘D-Score’, indicating their true beliefs that they may be too reluctant to share, otherwise known as their implicit bias.
Their explicit opinions were assessed by a questionnaire.
Implicit scores range from minus two to two, and higher scores indicate they’re more anti the trans community.
Values over 0.15 suggest ‘slightly biased’, over 0.36 as ‘moderately’ biased, and 0.65 and above as ‘strongly’ biased.
People who don’t work in healthcare had an average score of 0.116, suggesting little to no bias.
However, healthcare professionals who weren’t working as nurses scored 0.149 – or ‘slightly’ biased.
Nurses scored even higher: 0.176, well within the ‘slightly’ biased range.
They analyzed 11,996 nurses and 22,443 non-nursing healthcare professionals between 2020 and 2022.
This data was compared with 177,810 responses from people who don’t work in healthcare for the study published in Heliyon.
The authors noted that the test was limited to those who visited the Project Implicit website and opted to take the test, adding: “As such, the sample may be subject to sample selection bias in terms of the demographics and Implicit Association Test (IAT) results of participants.
“However, it may be anticipated that people with particularly negative attitudes towards transgender people would avoid taking the Transgender IAT and the results presented here may therefore under-represent the extent of implicit bias towards transgender people.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker