November is Transgender Awareness Month – a time to celebrate the vibrancy of the transgender and gender non-conforming community, educate the public on trans issues, and remember those who have been victimized by transphobic violence. All month long, Fenway Health will join local and national organizations in hosting events and educational opportunities around transgender awareness.
As outlined in Fenway Health’s Glossary of Gender and Transgender Terms, transgender refers to a diverse group of people whose gender identity or expression differs from societal expectations of how they should look, act, or identify based on the sex they were assigned at birth. This includes, but is not limited to, male-to-female (MTF) and female-to-male (FTM) trans people, non-binary identified trans people, and genderqueer individuals.
The disenfranchisement of this community – in society and in health care – is a serious and pervasive issue. Transgender and other gender variant people are often the targets of discrimination and harassment that can lead to negative health outcomes.
“Transgender Awareness Month is an important time for transgender people and our allies to reflect on the past, including our history and those community members we have lost over the years. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the present and our accomplishments as a community,” said Sari Reisner, ScD, Research Scientist at The Fenway Institute. “For those of us working in transgender public health practice, research, and policy, Transgender Awareness Month is a chance for us to educate people about unique health needs of transgender communities and to come together to collectively address how we can holistically improve the health and wellbeing of gender minority people.”
A report by The Fenway Institute and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) found that transgender people face widespread discrimination in many public accommodation settings, including doctors’ offices, hospitals, nursing homes, health centers, libraries, theaters, restaurants, and public parks. Transgender individuals also experience discrimination when trying to access some of the most basic needs – housing, employment, education, and social services, to name a few.
Download a high-res version of the above infographic here.
According to the report, 65% of transgender people reported experiencing discrimination in one or more public accommodation settings in the past year, with 24% experiencing discrimination in health care settings specifically. Because of the risk of this discrimination, one in five transgender people postponed or did not seek out health care in the past year. Those who did receive health care often found their providers ignorant about how to treat them – in fact, 29% had to teach their health care providers about transgender issues.
Discrimination against transgender individuals in health care is made even more toxic by the fact that this population faces serious health-related issues in numbers far higher than the general population. 62% have experienced depression, 41% have attempted suicide, and 26% report user drugs or alcohol to cope with discrimination. It’s clear that providing accessible and respectful health care for the transgender community needs to become a top priority for providers. Lives depend on it.
“Transgender Awareness Month helps to remind those who are working to improve the lives of transgender people everywhere about why all of our contributions are necessary. It’s a time in which we reflect on the past and memorialize those we have lost along the way,” said Dana Pardee, Study Coordinator at The Fenway Institute. “It’s a sobering time, but also a time to re-focus and to invigorate one another by coming together as a community.”
“It is so appropriate that during Transgender Awareness Month, a new study for transgender men at The Fenway Institute will be preparing to launch. The new study is The Institute’s largest for transgender men to date, and will ultimately add to greater clinical understanding of the population,” said Emilia Dunham, Quality Control Manager for The Fenway Institute’s Epidemiology Team. “Dr. Reisner has two other studies starting right now: one for transgender women in Peru and another Institute study looking at transgender women and their partners. These studies join the five-year LifeSkills HIV prevention study for transgender women, making up a rich repertoire of Institute studies specifically by and for transgender communities. This has particular impact for me as a transgender woman myself, and as an employee of The Fenway Institute, who remembers when we didn’t have any funded studies specifically for transgender people.”
Fenway Health is proud to be a leader in quality health care for the transgender community. We offer an ever-growing range of services geared towards transgender and gender minority people, including primary care, individual and group therapies, letters to support hormone therapy and surgery, post-surgical care, sexual health counseling and STD-screenings, and more.
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