In a recent incident that has ignited controversy across France and Europe, a French gynaecologist, Dr Victor Acharian, refused to treat a 26-year-old transgender woman at his clinic in the southwest of France. The doctor’s justification? A lack of training and expertise in treating transgender patients.
The transgender woman, who had come to the clinic with her boyfriend, was informed by the secretary that the doctor would not see her. Dr Acharian later told Euronews: “I told her that I’m not competent, but I can guide you. I can refer you to services that can take better care of you.” However, his comments online were less diplomatic, stating he only treated “real women” and had “no skills to treat men, even if they have shaved their beards.”
The incident has led to a wave of criticism, with transgender rights organisations across Europe condemning the doctor’s actions. Mar Cambrollé, president of the Trans Platform Federation in Spain, stated: “It is brutal to deny the right to health; it is a universal right that all citizens have.”
While Dr Acharian’s comments have been widely criticised, they highlight a broader issue within the medical community. According to a report by Doctors of the World, 50% of transgender people cancel or delay their medical appointments to avoid discrimination. Pernille Ravn, a member of the European Society of Gynaecology, emphasised the need for medical professionals to be trained in transgender healthcare.
Since September 2021, a group of three French universities has begun offering training in transgender healthcare. However, Béatrice Denaes, co-president of the association Trans-Santé France, noted that doctors who are “competent, caring, and willing” to treat trans people are still rare.
The incident has also sparked a debate about whether transgender women need to visit a gynaecologist at all. While some argue that transgender women may require gynaecological assessments for issues related to surgery, others, like feminist activists Marguerite Stern and Dora Moutot, believe that special clinics should be established for such cases.
The incident comes at a time when the number of transition requests in France is increasing. In 2020, around 3,300 people were recognised by the French health insurance scheme for “gender dysphoria”, a tenfold increase from 2013. As the number of transgender patients rises, the responsibility falls on healthcare authorities to ensure that medical professionals are adequately trained to treat all patients, regardless of their gender identity.