On Transgender Day of Visibility, we aim to celebrate and elevate the work that has happened across the country over the last few years to make gender-affirming care more accessible than ever before. Not only are more health centers providing this care, but we’ve also begun to see how innovations like telehealth make health care attainable for the trans community.
Gender-affirming care is a broad term that includes any health care that is respectful, inclusive, and responsive to the needs of transgender, non-binary, and gender diverse people. At Planned Parenthood Great Plains, we are proud providers of this life-saving and essential care. This care, including hormone therapy, helps members of our community to move forward with medical transition when it is right for them.
Within health care, there are still many barriers that restrict access to reproductive and sexual health care for members of the trans community. These include structural barriers, like workplace, housing, and insurance discrimination, that keep trans people from being able to access the care they need. Even when they are able to afford care, finding competent providers can be a challenge--especially in more rural areas. Negative experiences in health care environments are all too common among trans people. Many members of the trans community feel discomfort in seeking out care from anyone other than their primary care provider, because of uncertainty or fear about how they’ll be treated in the exam room and what kind of invasive questions may be asked of them. In light of this, it is critical that as many barriers to care are removed as possible, so that trans people are able to access the care they need.
We are excited to announce that recent research conducted by a team at PPGP has taken a closer look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected access to sexual and reproductive health care. A key finding in this study was that through telehealth, a program we launched in April of 2020, we saw a greater proportion of new patients seeking gender-affirming care during the first six months of the pandemic than we did during the six months prior. Implementing telehealth has been one small step in addressing the systemic barriers that create obstacles to health care for our trans community.
“When we look at the number of new patients who saw us via telehealth care during the pandemic, we see a story about patient access unfolding,” said Dr. Brandon Hill, PhD, President & CEO of PPGP. “Like many health care providers, telehealth was a necessary transition for our team during the pandemic, but it also allowed more patients to see us who might have otherwise not been able to come into our health centers under pre-pandemic circumstances-- particularly those living miles away or in rural areas.”
Over the last year, PPGP has increased our capacity to serve patients seeking gender-affirming care through telehealth, no matter where they’re located within our four-state region. Removing two typical barriers to access —transportation and proximity to a health center — allowed us to see more trans patients this year than ever before.
It’s important to remember that the experience of being trans is not ubiquitous. The types of barriers people face varies significantly based on things like age, race, ethnicity, income, location, etc. In addition to barriers, transition goals can vary widely, too. How, when, and why someone chooses to transition is a personal decision. Not all people who are transgender undergo medical transition, but their gender identity remains valid and seen by our community at PPGP.