Health inequity has wide ranging impacts on health status and carries significant social and economic costs for individuals and communities. While there has been increasing attention to this issue and its unique effects on LGBT+ populations, transgender and gender diverse people remain uniquely affected. Relatively little research has focused on the healthcare needs and outcomes specific to these communities and the existing literature has tended toward a narrow focus on sexual and reproductive health, often including small and geographically limited participant samples and cross-sectional or retrospective study designs.
The experience of a gender diverse identity can have a variety of multifaceted influences on physical, mental, and social health as well as complex interactions with other aspects of identity and demographics. Transgender and gender diverse individuals also face an array of challenges in accessing effective and affirming healthcare including disparities in treatment and outcomes as well as barriers to care. Researchers and policymakers cannot understand the varied needs within these communities without first understanding the experiences of the people within these communities and the challenges they face.
Healthcare research focusing on gender diverse and trans participants has historically faced unique challenges, including a socioeconomically diverse population typically present in numbers insufficient for statistically rigorous sampling and analysis at a single center, unclear patient-oriented outcomes, inconsistent grouping and definitions, inappropriately gendered laboratory reference ranges, variability in cultural competence and training across providers, and many more. However, the visibility of these communities and their needs has grown, facilitating the emergence of methodologically rigorous research and high quality datasets focusing on this underserved population and revealing new opportunities for community engagement.
PLOS ONE recently launched a call for papers on Health and Health Care in Gender Diverse Communities with the goal of encouraging and emphasizing research addressing prior challenges associated with sampling, study design, and cultural competence, and overcoming previous limitations. This is an exciting time for health-related research focused on trans and gender diverse communities, as collaborative, large scale, longitudinal, and multi-site data inclusive of gender diversity is finally being collected and made available, often for the first time. The United States Center for Disease Control began including questions related to sexual and gender minority-related experiences in national health surveys in 2014, and The National Center for Transgender Equality has released the the data from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, the largest survey ever devoted to the lives and experiences of transgender people in the United States, including over 27,000 participants. Also in the U.S. and with the support of a national network of community engagement efforts, the PRIDE study is collecting large scale nationwide longitudinal cohort data over at least 10 years to investigate the long term health of Americans identifying as LGBTQ+. Research from this effort focused on gender minorities is already beginning to become available, including several studies published in PLOS ONE (1, 2, 3) and this exciting work is ongoing. The largest study of transgender people in the world is underway under the European Network for the Investigation of Gender Incongruence, and the network has steadily expanded since its launch in 2010. Productive opportunities for research in this and related areas can only grow and diversify as awareness of gender diversity increases and sigma continues to recede worldwide.
This call for papers represents an opportunity to collect and showcase the cutting edge research into health and gender diversity now emerging and to make this critically important work available globally and without restriction to anyone who may benefit through PLOS ONE’s open access mission. We welcome submissions to the call through September 24th 2020, and more information is available here.
- Lunn MR, Capriotti MR, Flentje A, Bibbins-Domingo K, Pletcher MJ, Triano AJ, et al. (2019) Using mobile technology to engage sexual and gender minorities in clinical research. PLoS ONE 14(5): e0216282. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0216282
- Flentje A, Barger BT, Capriotti MR, Lubensky ME, Tierney M, Obedin-Maliver J, et al. (2020) Screening gender minority people for harmful alcohol use. PLoS ONE 15(4): e0231022. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0231022
- Moseson H, Lunn MR, Katz A, Fix L, Durden M, Stoeffler A, et al. (2020) Development of an affirming and customizable electronic survey of sexual and reproductive health experiences for transgender and gender nonbinary people. PLoS ONE 15(5): e0232154. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0232154
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