In recent years, the fight for transgender gender recognition and equality has been a core issue of the LGBT civil rights movement. This national discussion is important for the recognition of trans individuals and, ultimately, the removal of civil inequalities. Recent studies suggest that the marginalization of trans individuals leads to disproportionately high rates of certain diseases among the approximately 25 million transgender people worldwide.
First, we must acknowledge the problem. The transgender population has an estimated 60% depression rate and a 50 times greater risk of contracting HIV than non-trans individuals. This should not come as a surprise when we recognize the social stigma and violence directed at trans people. Many trans men and women struggle to find a support group and are often outcasts from families or other social groups. This marginalized treatment can lead to depression, suicide, and risky behaviors, such as intravenous drug use, which can lead to HIV contraction. Historically, the only places where the transgender community has ever felt safe are in bars and nightclubs, and the high rates of alcohol and tobacco use continue today.
Image Source: David McNew/Stringer
How can we help eliminate these health disparities in the trans community? We must remove the social stigma and discrimination directed towards this population. Some social determinants affecting transgender health include legal discrimination, a lack of consequences for bullying in schools, and a lack of culturally competent healthcare providers who are knowledgable in transgender health. Solving these issues is the most important step and it will take a continued effort to educate the public about transgender discrimination. In addition, there must be a more concerted effort in health research to include transgender identifiers. This will help collect data that has been minimal to non-existent in the past. By increasing research on transgender health issues, we can begin to understand and address these disparities.
In recent years, some health care institutions have already started the fight against transgender health disparities. For instance, the University of Colorado recognized the need of this underserved community and responded by investing in the LGBTQ community to improve health care. In July 2016, the University of Colorado Hospital opened their LGBTQ Clinic for mental health. Soon, it will grow into a full-scale clinic offering competent medical providers for both physical and mental issues.
Another important step in reducing health inequality is to affect change through public policy and investment. We need to increase health insurance coverage in the transgender community. Trans individuals have been shown to be less likely to have health insurance than heterosexual or LGB people. We need to provide safe access to bathroom facilities and recreational facilities. The goal is to get to the point where trans people feel just as comfortable in a public bathroom or in a gym as in a LGBT bar.
Feature Image Source: 2013 Rally for Transgender Equality 21176 by Ted Eytan