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The health and wellbeing of transgender and gender non‐conforming people of colour in the United States: A systematic literature search and review

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Abstract

Transgender and gender non‐conforming people (TGNC), individuals whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth, experience unique stressors, discrimination, and barriers to health and wellbeing. TGNC People of Colour (POC) navigate the nexus of racism, cisgenderism (and often homophobia) in their daily lives, resulting in uniquely intersecting forms of discrimination, and pronounced disparities in their health and well‐being. In order to examine the current state of knowledge about the health and wellbeing of TGNC POC, we conducted a systematic search and review of peer‐reviewed journal articles published between 1 January 2010 and 1 May 2020 that focused on this population. A systematic search identified (3,575) papers, with 76 of those meeting full inclusion criteria. In our review, we were able to identify physical health and psychological wellbeing (which included resilience), as core clusters of research focused on TGNC POC. We identified specific factors that hindered physical and psychological health (what we call “push” factors) as well as those that promoted it (what we call “pull” factors). Leveraging these findings, we offer ways forward for best practice in clinical work and carrying out research with this population. Please refer to the Supplementary Material section to find this article's Community and Social Impact Statement.

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This exploratory, qualitative study examined the health risks and barriers to care for transgender women who live in a U.S.–Mexico border city. Individual in-depth interviews were conducted with 13 self-identified transgender women in El Paso, Texas, seven of whom identified as Latina. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded for analysis of emerging themes, using the qualitative analysis software Atlas.ti (v.7.0). The themes that emerged are (1) self-acceptance of transgender identity; (2) acceptance of transgender identity within social networks; and (3) health risks, including body modifications and barriers to health care. The findings reveal phases of self-acceptance of transgender identity, a high level of health risks, scarce health services resources, and low levels of acceptance from family, friends, and partners. This study provides an important contribution to the health disparities literature on gender identity and health risks and the needs of transgender women, particularly in a U.S.–Mexico border context.
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Background. Little is known about the role of discrimination on depression among Latino sexual and gender identity minorities. This manuscript examined the relationship between ethnic/racial discrimination and sexual discrimination on clinically significant depressive symptoms among Latino sexual minority men (i.e., gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men) and Latina transgender women. Methods. A community-based participatory research partnership recruited participants ( N = 186; 80.6% cisgender men) in North Carolina to a social network-based HIV intervention. Using baseline data, we quantified the amount of perceived discrimination and conducted mixed-effects logistic regression analyses to examine correlates of clinically significant depressive symptoms. Results. A high percentage of participants reported ethnic/racial discrimination (73.7%) and sexual discrimination (53.8%). In the multivariable models, ethnic/racial discrimination, sexual discrimination, masculinity, fatalism, and social support were significantly associated with clinically significant depressive symptoms. Discussion. Improving mental health requires multilevel interventions that address pertinent individual, interpersonal, and system level factors.
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Mobile technology-based interventions show promise for conveying HIV prevention information to Latino men who have sex with men (LMSM) and Latina transgender women (LTGW); however, implementing such interventions can pose serious challenges. To understand how to adapt existing interventions for these populations, we conducted nine focus groups (N = 91 participants, 52 LMSM, 39 LTGW) in Los Angeles, California. We used a rapid assessment process to create narrative reports that we examined using thematic analysis to explore differences across sites and between LMSM and LTGW. Lessons learned: requiring smartphone use could diminish participation of poor participants; sending personalized messages on the same days and times can help participants anticipate receiving study information; working with community partners is essential for building trust; recognizing different language literacies and diverse countries of origin can improve the cultural competency of intervention materials. Addressing these challenges may enhance efforts to address the HIV prevention needs of these communities.
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Background: The majority of the transgender female population in South Florida are Latina and Black, and are at greatest risk for acquiring HIV, yet there is limited research focused on South Florida transgender women of color. The study objective was to describe the disparities among racial/ethnic minority transgender women regarding HIV screening, pre exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) knowledge and PrEP utilization. Methods: Sixty transgender women, recruited from South Florida community-based organizations, completed a questionnaire on HIV prevention and PrEP awareness and use. Univariate statistics were generated to describe sexual risk behavior, PrEP awareness and use, and HIV screening by race/ethnicity. Results: Of the 60 participants, 50.0% were Latina, 35.0% African American/non-Hispanic Black (AA/NHB), 11.7% white and 3.3% other race/ethnicity. 75.0% reported being screened for HIV in the last 12 months, 15.3% of the participants reported living with HIV (PLWH), while 18.6% reported an unknown status. Compared to Latinas, AA/NHB demonstrated more risk (≥2 sexual partners: 76.2% vs 53.3%; transactional sex: 47.6% vs. 26.7%; unprotected receptive anal sex: 42.9% v. 26.7%), and more engagement in routine care (81.0% vs. 76.7%) at least once a year. PrEP knowledge was 76.7% among Latinas, 71.4% among whites, 47.6% among Blacks, and 50.0% among other race/ethnicity. 65.0% of participants knew about PrEP. Of the 8.2% with current or previous PrEP use, none were AA/NHB. Conclusion: Findings suggest that education and public health campaigns in South Florida that promote HIV prevention should focus on increasing awareness and utilization of PrEP among racial/ethnic minority transgender, particularly among AA/NHB transgender women who are most at risk and had the lowest knowledge and use of PrEP.
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Although the concept of intersectionality has gained widespread attention in psychological research, there remains a significant gap related to the impact of intersectionality on identity formation for persons negotiating multiple minority statuses. This gap is especially pronounced among sexual and gender expansive women of Latinx and African American descent—two groups that face disparate personal and public health risks but are largely ignored in the research literature. In response to this gap, we carried out a qualitative study using constructivist grounded theory with twenty Latinx and African American sexual minority, gender expansive women to understand participants’ experiences of forming an intersectional social identity. Following an exploration of identity formation related to the specific domains of race, gender identity and sexual orientation, we prompted participants to consider how each of the specified identity domains impacted the formation and experience of an overall intersectional identity (e.g., how racial position impacted gender identity and/or sexual identity formation). Findings revealed four major themes that were critical in identity formation: (a) family and cultural expectations, (b) freedom to explore identity, (c) the constant negotiation of insider/outsider status, and (d) identity integration as an act of resistance. Implications for future research and psychological services are discussed.
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Background Transgender people and racial/ethnic minorities separately report poor healthcare experiences. However, little is known about the healthcare experiences of transgender people of color (TPOC), who are both transgender and racial/ethnic minorities. Objective To investigate how TPOC healthcare experiences are shaped by both race/ethnicity and gender identity. Design and Participants Semi-structured, in-depth individual interviews (n = 22) and focus groups (2; n = 17 total); all taken from a sample of TPOC from the Chicago area. All participants completed a quantitative survey (n = 39). Approach Interviews and focus groups covered healthcare experiences, and how these were shaped by gender identity and/or race/ethnicity. The interviews and focus groups were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and imported into HyperRESEARCH software. At least two reviewers independently coded each transcript using a codebook of themes created following grounded theory methodology. The quantitative survey data captured participants’ demographics and past healthcare experiences, and were analyzed with descriptive statistics. Key Results All participants described healthcare experiences where providers responded negatively to their race/ethnicity and/or gender identity. A majority of participants believed they would be treated better if they were cisgender or white. Participants commonly cited providers’ assumptions about TPOC as a pivotal factor in negative experiences. A majority of participants sought out healthcare locations designated as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)-friendly in an effort to avoid discrimination, but feared experiencing racism there. A minority of participants expressed a preference for providers of color; but a few reported reluctance to reveal their gender identity to providers of their own race due to fear of transphobia. When describing positive healthcare experiences, participants were most likely to highlight providers’ respect for their gender identity. Conclusions TPOC have different experiences compared with white transgender or cisgender racial/ethnic minorities. Providers must improve understanding of intersectional experiences of TPOC to improve quality of care.
Article
Purpose: Healthcare access is important for achieving health equity across vulnerable social groups. However, stigma can be a barrier for accessing healthcare among black transgender and gender diverse youth (TGDY) in the U.S. Using a resilience approach, this article examines the role of gender affirmation within healthcare to determine if it can mitigate the negative relationship between stigma and healthcare use. Methods: Data include responses from 110 black TGDY from 14 U.S. cities. Multiple logistic regression models were fit to determine relationships between stigma in healthcare (anticipated and enacted), gender affirmation in healthcare, and delayed/nonuse of primary care. Interaction terms were included to determine if gender affirmation moderates the relationship between stigma and healthcare nonuse. Results: In the main effects model, gender affirmation was the only variable statistically associated with healthcare nonuse. The interaction between gender affirmation and enacted stigma was not significant, but gender affirmation moderated the relationship between anticipated stigma and healthcare nonuse. For individuals who did not have their gender affirmation needs met, as anticipated stigma increased, healthcare nonuse also increased; however, this did not occur for those who had their gender affirmation needs met. Conclusions: Findings suggest that gender affirmation within healthcare is important for increasing access to care among black TGDY. Interventions should consider how to increase gender affirmation among healthcare providers and within healthcare settings. Additional research using an intersectional approach to understand the experiences of black TGDY is needed to highlight the unique healthcare needs of this population.
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Background: Black and Latina transgender women (BLTW) face significant HIV disparities with estimated HIV prevalence up to 50% and annual incidence rates as high as 2.8 per 100 person-years. However, few studies have evaluated the acceptability and uptake of high-impact HIV prevention interventions among BLTW. Setting: Data collection took place in Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC from May 2015-May 2017. Methods: This mixed methods study included quantitative interviewer-administered surveys, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions. Rapid HIV testing followed each survey. Logistic regression models tested associations between legal gender affirmation (i.e., desired name and gender marker on identity documents), transgender pride, history of exchange sex, HIV risk perception, and willingness to take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Transcripts of qualitative data were coded to identify common themes related to engagement in HIV prevention. Results: Among 201 BLTW, 56% tested HIV-positive and 87% had heard of PrEP. Only 18% who had heard of PrEP had ever taken it. Of the 72 self-reported HIV-negative or status-unknown BLTW who had never taken PrEP, 75% were willing to take it. In multivariable analyses, history of exchange sex was associated with willingness to take PrEP, whereas greater HIV knowledge and transgender pride were associated with lower likelihood of willingness to take PrEP. Concern about drug interactions with hormone therapy was the most frequently reported barrier to PrEP uptake. Conclusion: Noting the disconnect between PrEP willingness and uptake among BLTW, HIV prevention programs could bridge this gap by responding to identified access barriers and incorporating community-derived strategies.
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Depression among Black transgender women (BTW) in the USA is an often understudied mental health concern with far-reaching consequences for overall physical and mental health at both the individual and community levels. Intimate partner violence (IPV) among BTW is also a frequently understudied and important social determinant of health in need of further exploration. This study sought to address the gap in research on the relationship between IPV and depression among BTW using a time- and location-based community sample of BTW from six US cities. In addition, it sought to explore the potential protective or suppressive effect of perceived social support on this relationship. Generalized structural equation models were used to assess conditional direct and indirect effects of IPV on depression via the suppression effect of perceived social support. Evidence was found of a statistically significant conditional direct effect of IPV on depression as well as a statistically significant suppression effect for perceived social support. Specifically, there was a 20% lower likelihood of increased depressive symptomatology for every 1-unit increase in perceived social support reported by participants. These findings indicated that perceived social support may be an important intervention point for helping to improve the mental health and well-being of BTW.
Article
Latino men who have sex with men (LMSM) and Latina transgender women (LTGW) often lack access to HIV prevention information and strategies such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). We explored knowledge gaps and culturally sensitive messaging about PrEP among HIV-negative LMSM and LTGW in Los Angeles. We recruited participants from a Latinx LGBT community-based organization. We conducted nine focus groups (n = 91 participants) with 52 LMSM and 39 LTGW. We used a rapid assessment process to create narrative reports that we analyzed using thematic analysis. Key quotes were transcribed verbatim; they were reviewed by the team, then uploaded to Dedoose to identify themes across sites and between groups. Three themes emerged for both LMSM and LTGW: knowledge gaps regarding PrEP remain; people who have knowledge about PrEP often served as its champions; highlighting positive aspects of culture could help improve PreP’s uptake and sustained use. Only LMSM worried that PrEP could impact condom use. Some issues were more pronounced among LTGW (e.g., more limited access to PrEP); others were unique to LTGW (e.g., worry about drug-hormones interactions). Collaborative research, programs, and policies, informed by LMSM and LTGW themselves, are needed to narrow existing knowledge gaps and promote PrEP uptake and sustained utilization.
Article
Young Black men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people experience disparities in HIV incidence and HIV outcomes. To effectively engage these communities in HIV-related programming, we developed a recreation-based community health space. We sought to examine the challenges and successes in implementing this program. Qualitative data were collected from federal progress reports and by a process evaluator who recorded interviews with staff, stakeholders, and participants. These data were coded for themes related to barriers and successes. We consolidated themes into four key domains: community engagement, service provision, stigma, and violence. Each of these domains was determined to significantly affect programmatic success during the implementation period. Young Black MSM and transgender people experience stigmas that pose challenges to effective engagement in HIV-related programming. These lessons learned offer strategies for community engagement and for addressing violence and stigma to maximize programmatic effectiveness.
Article
Background: Although Black transgender women (BTW) experience high prevalence of HIV in the United States, no characterization of the HIV care continuum exists for this population. This study addresses this gap by (1) characterizing the HIV care continuum, and (2) exploring correlates of HIV diagnosis and viral suppression among a community based sample of BTW. Methods: Data came from Promoting Our Worth, Equality, and Resilience (POWER). From 2014 to 2017, POWER recruited BTW who attended Black Pride events in six U.S. cities. Participants completed a behavioral health survey and were offered onsite HIV testing. Simple frequencies were used to characterize the HIV care continuum, and multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to identify correlates of HIV diagnosis and viral suppression. Results: A total of 422 BTW provided completed data for our analysis, 45.0% of whom were living with HIV. Over half of the HIV-positive BTW (51.4%) reported being undiagnosed at the time of survey, and 24.5% reported viral suppression. Incarceration and a lack of access to medical care were significantly and positively associated with an undiagnosed HIV-positive status in multivariable models. Incarceration, homelessness, polydrug use, physical assault, intimate partner violence, and current hormone use were significantly and negatively associated with viral suppression in multivariable models. Conclusion: Developing and implementing interventions that address timely HIV diagnosis may assist in informing the HIV disparity among BTW in the U.S. Interventions should address the fundamental causes of poor health in this population.
Article
Transwomen of color are disproportionately impacted by HIV and may have worse health outcomes than other populations. This analysis was conducted to examine structural factors associated with poor health outcomes among transwomen of color living with HIV in the San Francisco Bay Area (N = 159). Univariate and multivariable analyses were conducted to determine if structural factors were associated with poor HIV-related health outcomes. A majority of participants were Black or African American (110/159, 69.2%), 32 (20.1%) identified their primary race/ethnicity as Hispanic or Latino/a or Spanish, and 17 (10.7%) identified as another race/ethnicity. Transwomen of color in our sample faced extreme structural barriers, including residential transience, extreme low income, high prevalence of running out of money in the last six months, high rates of food insecurity, high prevalence of income via entitlement programs, engagement in sex work and other illicit activities for income. Unstable housing was the structural factor most consistently associated with poor health outcomes along the HIV care continuum and may explain engagement in other sources of income generation. Interventions are needed that go beyond the individual and health care-level to address needs for housing and economic opportunities to improve HIV care outcomes among transwomen of color living with HIV in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Transgender women of color face numerous barriers to accessing quality health and human services due to intersecting systems of oppression. Using transmisogyny as a conceptual tool, the current study drew upon individual, in-depth interviews with ten transgender women of color living in New York City. Interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to explore the experiences of participants in care settings and compare their experiences in LGBT-specific settings to non-specific settings. Results from this study suggest specific health and human services practices and policies can improve the healthcare experiences of transgender women of color and advance health equity for all.
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This study compared sexually transmitted infection (STI)-associated risks between young Black cisgender men who have sex with men (YBMSM) and young Black transwomen who have sex with men (YBTWSM). Comparisons pertained to: (1) prevalence of infections; (2) sexual risk; (3) partner-related risks; and (4) socioeconomic marginalization. YBMSM (n = 577) and YBTWSM (n = 32) were recruited from an STI clinic in the USA. Volunteers completed a computer-assisted self-interview and medical records were abstracted for STI/HIV information. Significantly greater prevalence of pharyngeal Chlamydia (P < .001) and pharyngeal gonorrhea (P = .04) occurred among YBTWSM; however, both associations were moderated and only significant for HIV-uninfected volunteers. YBTWSM had more oral sex partners and more frequent engagement in oral sex. The number of new sex partners for anal receptive sex was greater in YBTWSM. YBTWSM were more likely to exchange sex for money/drugs (P < .001), have sex with men recently in prison (P < .001), who were “anonymous” (P = .004), or who were “one night stands” (P < .001). YBTWSM were more likely to depend on sex partners for money food, etc. (P < .001), to miss meals due to lack of money (P = .01), and to report having ever being incarcerated (P = .009). Compared to cisgender YBMSM, YBTWSM experience multiple risk factors relative to the acquisition/transmission of STIs and HIV.
Article
Latinos in the U.S. are disproportionately affected by HIV and are more likely than non-Latinos to present with a late diagnosis, which delays engagement in HIV care and treatment. Social networks may provide normative influence and social support for HIV testing, but a contextualised understanding of networks is needed in order to maximise these social resources. We conducted qualitative interviews with foreign-born Latino men and transgender women (n = 17) in a new immigrant destination to explore their social networks. Most participants described having smaller social networks after migrating. Networks included both local and transnational ties, but most participants had few close ties. Contextual factors including stigma and geographic dispersion limited the re-construction of networks with close ties after migration. HIV testing was not a common topic of discussion with social network ties. Efforts to improve early uptake of HIV testing among Latino immigrants may benefit from engaging with social networks, but such efforts need to address how the context in which networks operate enables access to testing.
Article
The present study examined associations between methamphetamine use and social factors among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women. Over a four-year period, 7,419 HIV outreach encounters were conducted with MSM (n=6,243) and transgender women (n=1,176). Logistic and negative binomial regressions estimated associations between sociodemographics, incarceration history, housing status, and methamphetamine use. Incarceration history was associated with marginal housing or homelessness (AOR=3.4) and with increased likelihood (AOR = 6.00) and rate (AIRR = 3.57) of methamphetamine use. African American/Black MSM and transgender women were more likely to report a recent incarceration history compared to non-African American/Black participants (AOR=2.18). Incarceration history was associated with a HIV-positive status (AOR=1.69), and transgender women were 5.2 times more likely to report recent incarceration relative to MSM. Understanding these associations may provide a basis for developing interventions that account for the social factors influencing health outcomes among these high-risk populations.
Article
To improve health outcomes among transgender women of color living with HIV, the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Special Programs of National Significance program funded the Enhancing Engagement and Retention in Quality HIV Care for Transgender Women of Color Initiative in 2012. Nine demonstration projects in four US urban areas implemented innovative, theory-based interventions specifically targeting transgender women of color in their jurisdictions. An evaluation and technical assistance center was funded to evaluate the outcomes of the access to care interventions, and these findings will yield best practices and lessons learned to improve the care and treatment of transgender women of color living with HIV infection.
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In 2015, the American Psychological Association adopted Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Clients in order to describe affirmative psychological practice with transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) clients. There are 16 guidelines in this document that guide TGNC-affirmative psychological practice across the lifespan, from TGNC children to older adults. The Guidelines are organized into five clusters: (a) foundational knowledge and awareness; (b) stigma, discrimination, and barriers to care; (c) lifespan development; (d) assessment, therapy, and intervention; and (e) research, education, and training. In addition, the guidelines provide attention to TGNC people across a range of gender and racial/ethnic identities. The psychological practice guidelines also attend to issues of research and how psychologists may address the many social inequities TGNC people experience.
Article
Transgender individuals face heightened risks for discrimination, harassment, and violence that impact their psychosocial well-being and physical health. However, few studies have thoroughly examined the general physical and mental health of transgender adults or within-group health differences by race/ethnicity and income. To that end, after controlling for health insurance status, age, and engagement in exercise, this study asks: (a) are transgender people of color more likely than White transgender individuals to experience poor health outcomes?, and (b) is lower annual household income among transgender adults associated with poorer health outcomes? The current study analyzes secondary data from a survey of transgender adults (N = 417) in one state in the Western United States using multiple linear regression and logistic regression models. Transgender people of color had significantly greater odds than their White counterparts of having arthritis/rheumatoid arthritis/gout/lupus/fibromyalgia, or having asthma, but lower odds of being told by a provider that they had depression. Having a lower income was significantly associated with worse general health as well as multiple indicators of poor physical and mental health, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. We discuss implications for health care delivery for transgender people and for future research.