In our own words: How to provide better trans healthcare

Gay, lesbian or bisexual people are 10 times more likely to experience discrimination in all aspects of their lives, based on sexual orientation, as compared to heterosexual people.

Discrimination can take many forms, including:

• Obvious acts of prejudice and discrimination (for example, someone who is open about being transgender being refused employment or housing), or

• More subtle, but no less harmful, discrimination that reinforces negative stereotypes and feelings of difference (for example, seemingly benign jokes and verbal insults).

Transgender and gender non-conforming people in particular face discrimination in healthcare settings, are regularly denied needed care, and experience a range of health risks because they are transgender or gender non-conforming, according to a 2010 report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS)—the largest survey examining the experiences of transgender people in the United States: 

• 23 percent of respondents did not see a doctor when they needed to out of fear of being mistreated as a transgender person,

• 33 percent of those who saw a health care provider in the past year reported having at least one negative experience related to being transgender, with higher rates for people of color and people with disabilities. This included being refused treatment, being verbally harassed, physically or sexually assaulted, or having to teach the provider about transgender people in order to obtain appropriate care.

Trans, or Transgender is a word commonly used to describe people who identify with a gender different from the one assigned to them at birth. Gender non-conforming refers to individuals whose gender expression does not conform to society’s expectations of gender roles.

Even though there is an increasing acceptance of trans and gender non-conforming people in society, and greater visibility in the media and public life, many trans and gender non-conforming people still experience discrimination in all aspects of their lives.

So what can we do?

We can create spaces for ongoing dialogue and learning. Providers can seek out continuing education to learn effective and affirmative ways to support trans and gender non-conforming people. By responsibly taking ownership of the quality of services for our communities, providers will break down barriers to healthcare for our trans community.

The discrimination experienced by trans and gender non-conforming people has serious impacts on mental health, which can cause isolation and feelings of shame. However, when we can share these experiences and struggles with others who understand them, we find community and support. Every moment of visibility is a way our community can illustrate the words of Lourdes Ashley Hunter, “Every breath a trans person takes is an act of revolution.”

Working together on our self-acceptance and love increases our capacity to take care of our physical and mental health. We’re worth a trip to the doctor, and the effort it takes to connect with the resources we need.

Riley Marcano is a Medical Case Manager at Mazzoni Center. Joniece Greer is the Community Engagement Specialist at Mazzoni Center. Airen McClure is the Legal Services Office Administrator. To learn more about Mazzoni Center’s Trans Care services, visit

Newsletter Sign-up