Transgender Awareness Week falls between November 13-19 every year and is meant to help raise visibility of a vulnerable and underserved community. ‘Transgender’ is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned at birth; ‘gender identity’ is one’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both, or neither.
Transgender/gender non-conforming people experience gender dysphoria, a clinically significant distress recognized by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) caused by a person’s assigned birth gender differing from the one with which they identify. This leads to increased depression among the transgender community, which can be exacerbated by being rejected by family and friends, abuse/violence, or experiencing discrimination. Gender-affirming operations have shown to yield long-term mental health benefits for transgender people.
Transgender and gender-nonconforming people can face significant problems with accessing health care. Finding a healthcare provider who is knowledgeable of transgender health issues can be a hurdle itself; some healthcare professionals may believe that there is something wrong with someone because they are transgender — these practitioners are wrong. Even after finding a knowledgeable and sympathetic doctor, insurance may not cover the cost of treatment. Many transgender people are on a dosage of hormones which can affect one’s blood pressure, blood sugar, or in rare cases contribute to cancer. Some cancers found in transgender people can appear atypical — trans men are at risk for ovarian and cervical cancers, and trans women can be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) protects against discrimination based on gender identity. Despite these protections, over 27% of transgender/gender non-conforming people report having been denied healthcare. Even paperwork can be a barrier to access for transgender individuals as standard forms often only list “male” or “female.” Nearly 21% of transgender people in the US report being subjected to harsh or abusive language from a healthcare professional, and an almost equal amount say healthcare providers have blamed them for their own health conditions. Transgender people report the highest rates of discrimination and barriers to care among the LGBT community. To avoid discrimination, nearly a third (31%) reported in a survey that none of their healthcare providers knew they were transgender and an additional 17% reported that only some of their providers knew.
Transgender rights and protections have been diminished by the Trump administration. Early in 2017, the Department of Education rescinded Obama’s guidance on Title IX of the Civil Rights Act for transgender/gender non-conforming people in schools. The Department of Justice announced months later in October 2017 that civil rights laws do not protect transgender people in the workplace, reversing a guideline instituted by President Obama on Title VII. The case for Title VII was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court just last month (October 2019), and could have life-altering ramifications if the Court decides the Civil Rights Act doesn’t protect transgender individuals. Advocates for an already vulnerable population call the guidelines “license to discriminate” while others claim it is their “religious liberty” to deny services or access to individuals based on belief.
Transgender Awareness Week ends on November 20, known as Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is observed as a vigil commemorating the transgender people lost to violence. This year, the American Medical Association is extending efforts to curtail what it calls “the epidemic of violence against the transgender community, especially the amplified physical dangers faced by transgender people of color.” At the time of writing, over twenty transgender/gender non-conforming individuals have been killed in the United States — nearly all of whom were trans women of color — from violence ranging from gunshots to immolation to a transgender woman in ICE custody being denied healthcare. Awareness is vital for the stigma and misconceptions surrounding transgender/gender non-conforming individuals can be eliminated and allow all to be able live safely and in peace.
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has information on finding insurance for transgender-related healthcare. To further help those in need, NeedyMeds has a growing list of programs in our Diagnosis-Based Assistance database for transgender/gender non-conforming people that offer various forms of assistance such as financial aid or legal services. We also have listings for recreational camps/retreats and academic scholarships for LGBT youth and their families. NeedyMeds’ unique crowdfunding platform HEALfundr is also available for individuals trying to raise funds for their transition. If you know any programs assisting transgender/gender non-conforming people that we don’t have listed on our site, leave a comment and let us know about it.
Trans Lifeline (transgender crisis support): (877) 565-8860