The National Transgender Study is a Start – But More is Needed to Protect the Sexual Health of Transgender Teens

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Image via Ted Eytan

On Thursday, December 9th, the largest survey of transgender people ever conducted was published by The National Center for Transgender Equality. The anonymous online survey had nearly 28,000 participants and found transgender people are twice as likely to live in poverty and three times more likely to be unemployed, according to an article in TIME Magazine. Other findings included that one-third of respondents reported issues in finding healthcare and 42%  reported higher rates of mistreatment by health care providers.

Fordham University Center for Ethics Education Director, Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D., lauded the recent national study highlighting the healthcare needs of transgender people in the United States. “More is needed on the health care experiences of transgender adolescents, especially their experiences with family physicians who often do not have the training to provide necessary gender affirming care,” she noted.

Fisher’s research with colleagues from Northwestern University, supported by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), has highlighted the critical need for physicians who are trained and open to providing gender minority youth with not only transitioning information, but also gender and sexual orientation specific sexual health information and services to prevent HIV and related STIs.

The study by Fisher and colleagues, “Barriers to Transitional and Sexual Health Services for Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Youth,” is the first to examine factors facilitating or impeding the transitioning and sexual health care experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) youth in the United States. Based on reports of 228 participants, ages 14-21, who completed an online survey with information such as gender and sexual identities, family and social acceptance and treatment and concerns about gender and sexual minority stigma and discrimination within healthcare settings, Fisher explained the results demonstrated the existence of barriers to transitional and sexual health care services including denial of services and  lack of physicians adequately trained in TGNC medical needs.

According to Fisher, the study confirmed the “need for greater medical training” of health care professionals as sexual health care disparities among TGNC youth are exacerbated by the adoption of  non-heterosexual identities making them vulnerable to both gender and sexual minority discrimination. Additionally, the study discusses ethical obligations of medical schools to provide training on the “unique health care needs of TGNC youth” and responsibilities of practitioners to reduce health disparities among their young TGNC patients by reflecting and addressing on “their own potential biases.”

For the complete 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey Report and Executive Summary, please visit the USTS Report page. 

For LGBT resources, please visit RELAY (Research and Education for LGBT and Allied Youth). RELAY is a project of Fordham University’s Center for Ethics Education which looks to advance the conversation about health for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and especially trans youth. Please also visit the resource page for creating an LGBTQ-inclusive classroom.


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