Caring for Trans Seniors

Time lapse photography of water ripple, Photo by Jordan McDonald on Unsplash
Time lapse photography of water ripple, Photo by Jordan McDonald on Unsplash

Editor’s Note: This is Part 4 in a continuing series of essays on sex and gender theory.

Now that we have explored some of the basics of sex and gender theory, both from the standpoint of Torah, and from the standpoint of modern gender theory, now we get to the meat of the issue.  When you have a transgender patient or resident assigned to your care, what considerations should you be sensitive to?

On admission, the institution must determine what gender the person identifies with. First off, ask them what name they use, and what pronouns they use.  Do not say “prefer”. Gender is not a preference. And please do not use the name on the chart. Often times it is the “dead name,” the legal name the person was assigned, that may not have been changed. By asking the person their name and pronouns you immediately show knowledge, concern, consideration and compassion for your trans patient or resident.

When you know the person’s gender, then you can determine where to assign them regarding a room, if it is a semi-private room. Remember, that it is not about genitals or biology – it’s about identified gender. If the patient identifies as female, assign them to a room with another woman.  Of course, it is wise to first brief the room-mate to ensure that there will not be difficulties. If the room-mate is transphobic, it can be highly problematic.

If the person identifies as non-binary, then flexibility is required. If you have other non-binary residents who identify similarly that might be optimal. If not, then inform the new resident that you only have semi-private rooms, with binary gender choices, and allow them the choice of which gender to house in. Again, working in advance with the room-mate to ensure things go smoothly is key.

Further, training for all staff members on all shifts is essential. If you do not have anyone on your staff who is competent to do this training, then reach out to your local LGBTQ center or PFLAG ( chapter for assistance. It is vital that all your staff receive trans competency training if you will have trans patients or residents on your floor. If this does not happen, the results can be disastrous.

Consequences from incompatible room-mates, to mis-gendering, dead-naming, asking a trans woman when her last period or pap smear were, asking a trans man about his prostate health, etc., all show lack of competency in dealing with trans patients/residents.

If you are unable to find anyone in your area to help you with the trans competency training, please contact me through the Jewish Sacred Aging website. I can arrange to train your staff through a video link, so that we can ensure that you are prepared to treat your trans patients appropriately.

Likewise, if you ever have questions about any topics regarding transgender identity, Jewish Law as it applies to transgender identity and transgender care or other related topics, again, feel free to contact me through this website.

Being proactive in asking these questions and learning is the best way to avoid making mistakes that can result in bad experiences for your residents/patients, and for your personnel.  A bad experience for one of your staff members can turn someone who was friendly transphobic in a hurry.

The best plan of course is to train for transgender care BEFORE you have trans patients so that you are prepared when you do. You may already have had a trans patient and not known it, since not all trans people are “out” about their identity. Some people keep their transness to themselves. This may not be wise when dealing with medical providers of course, but it is each person’s choice what they reveal and do not reveal.

In the next article, we will explore what actions to take when a Jewish trans person passes away.

About Rabbah Rona Matlow 4 Articles
Rabbah Rona Matlow is a retired Navy officer, disabled veteran, and non-binary transgender woman who uses ze/hir pronouns. For more information, please see hir biography on hir website Ze is available on Facebook, Twitter and Insta @RabbahRona.


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