A large group of researchers and academics is pushing back against moves to “desex” medical language to accommodate transgender and gender-diverse people, saying the terms used in the name of inclusion confuse health data and can lead to serious medical errors.
A letter signed by 120 researchers to peak funding body the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) also warns that blurring the lines between biological sex and gender identity on medical forms and in research threatens to widen what’s known as the female data gap.
“Using ‘women’ with a gendered meaning, that is grouping males and females together, when considering healthcare provision or undertaking research, has risks,” the letter says.
General practitioners in Victoria are being urged in a course on transgender and gender diverse health, conducted by official training provider Thorne Harbour Health, to issue new admission forms for patients that emphasise gender identity and not biological sex.
The Queensland Department of Health now invites “persons with a cervix” rather than “women” for cervical cancer screening in their health promotion materials.
Australia’s peak health statistics body, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare notes on its website that in its reports, “male or female may refer to either sex or gender, depending on the data source … so it can be unclear which is the focus”.
Of the 120 signatories of the letter, more than one-third are professors. It also includes a number of senior clinicians working in women’s health and nine women’s health organisations.