Med School Says It’s ‘Not Trying to Change’ Students’ Religious Or Political Beliefs With Mandatory LGBT Training

Katelynn Richardson and Megan Brock 

The University of Virginia (UVA) is requiring medical students to take an LGBTQ+ “Safe Space Training.” However, it claims it is not trying to “change anyone’s religious beliefs or political affiliations.”

The “Safe Space Training” is one the LGBTQ+ trainings new medical students are required to complete, along with a presentation on “Social Issues in Medicine Course-LGBTQ+ Health” and a panel on “Reproduction/Endocrinology System-Hormone Replacement and Transgender Medicine,” according to the university. The training teaches future medical professionals how to use pronouns and terminology such as “demisexual” and “pansexual,” understand the challenges of LGBTQ+ patients and change a patient’s pronouns and gender identity in the electronic medical records system, according to the slideshow obtained by the DCNF.

“We are not trying to change anyone’s religious beliefs or political affiliations,” the first slide begins. “This is about adhering to the medical standard of care, which is affirming people’s genders and sexual orientations.”

One early slide, which comes before a section on the gender binary, presents a photo of Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi wearing a dress shirt with pants and a dress, respectively, posing the question, “Who is more gay?” The options provided are a) Ellen b) Portia or c) “Don’t you mean ‘Who is more lesbian?’”

The presentation later features “The Gender Unicorn,” a tool used to explain gender identity, gender expression, physical attraction and emotional attraction on a sliding spectrum.

The slideshow references microaggressions as “death by a thousand cuts.” In a section on disparities in LGBTQ health, it cites the “lack of laws protecting against bullying in schools” as a factor.

The latter portion of the presentation coaches students through potential scenarios with patients, advising the use of “inclusive” language and genderless terms with patients.

For example, students should ask “Are you in a relationship?” rather than “Do you have a husband?” and “What is their name?” instead of “What’s her name?” according to the slideshow.

The presentation also encourages students to “make inclusion visible,” noting that displaying a rainbow symbol can demonstrate you “aren’t ashamed or afraid of negative social reaction” and “care about serving LGBTQ people.”

Another slide provides a list of recommended media for becoming familiarized with LGBTQ+ culture, including books like “Becoming a Visible Man,” “Gender Outlaw” and “Last Time I Wore A Dress,” along with TV Shows like “Queer Eye,” a Netflix series featuring a group of gay designers who give makeovers.

A resources page includes links to organizations supporting LGBTQ youth, and the last two slides include citations on “medical affirmations for trans youth.”

“Personhood is a spiritual principle; support their daily care routines,” a later slide states, quoting from an article on the UVA School of Nursing website about caring for transgender patients at the end of life. “Ask only the questions germane to these patients’ care. Drop your assumptions and what you think you know; everyone on has their own stor[y].”

The presentation, created by the Charlottesville Pride Community Network, aims to introduce participants to “terminology and concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity” by “drawing from statistics relating to the culture, discrimination, legal status, historical context, and challenges that define, relate to, and inform the LGBTQ+ community increase cultural sensitivity and encourage respect and empathy.” The organization has also offered the training at “churches, nonprofit agencies, healthcare organizations, schools, and businesses,” including a high school, according to an archived version of its website.

The UVA School of Medicine did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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