Original Article

Transgender-Competent Health Care: Lessons from the Community

Authors: Jesse P. Zatloff, MPH, Silke A. von Esenwein, PhD, Sarah C. Cook, MD, Jason S. Schneider, MD, J. Sonya Haw, MD


Objectives: Transgender (trans) individuals experience high discrimination levels when accessing medical and mental health care, resulting in poorer health outcomes compared with the general population and other minority populations. A community-based research design was used to elicit direct input from the trans community about critical trans-knowledgeable care components to address these disparities. The data collection included several focus groups with individuals recruited from the trans community. The information from this research guided the opening of the Gender Center, a centralized, multidisciplinary center of care for trans individuals within an urban safety-net hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.

Methods: The research team conducted five focus groups with 27 self-identified trans individuals between December 2016 and April 2017. Focus groups solicited the negative and positive experiences of trans individuals in the healthcare system and sought input about how best to serve this population.

Results: Analysis was done January through April 2020. Focus group participants identified financial difficulties, lack of insurance coverage, being underinsured, discrimination within the healthcare system and from providers, and a shortage of trans-competent providers as the most significant barriers to care. Participants emphasized the need to pay attention to creating a welcoming clinic environment, including trans-positive signage, and integrating trans staff members into the care team.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates the importance of community-based research in addressing health disparities for trans people. It also offers insight into the unmet healthcare needs of the trans community, describes typical healthcare-related experiences of trans individuals, and identifies critical elements for providing high-quality trans-appropriate health care.

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