There are approximately 25 million transgender and nonbinary people in the world, and this community experiences incredibly high rates of health disparities. Many transgender and nonbinary individuals have less than positive experiences with health care providers; 33% have had a negative experience with a provider in the past year regarding their gender identity, and 23% opted not to get needed health care at least once in the past year due to fears of mistreatment because of their gender. Additionally, 33% did not go to a provider in the past year due to lack of funds. Furthermore, only 51% of providers and 19% of office staff report that they feel totally comfortable serving transgender patients. Given these various barriers to care, many transgender and nonbinary individuals use sources other than their medical providers (or in addition to their providers) to obtain information regarding transgender health. Qualitative findings from the Michigan Trans Health Survey as well as interviews with members of the Michigan Trans Health Advisory Board indicate that members of this community often use various online platforms such as YouTube, tumblr, and Facebook groups to ask questions about and/or seek information regarding their own health. Yet the extent to which people find the information they need, whether this information is safe and medically sound, and what the experience of seeking medical information outside of traditional health sources is like for this marginalized population, remains understudied.
We, an interdisciplinary team from Social Work, Medicine, and Information, plan to examine how and why transgender and nonbinary individuals seek transgender health related information outside of medical providers, how they use different online platforms, how they assess the accuracy/validity of information they find, and what their thoughts and experiences are regarding who delivers this information. This grant will allow us to conduct a mixed methods study consisting of both online focus groups and a national survey to understand this population’s experiences and needs. Information collected will span transgender health areas including but not limited to general health, sexual and reproductive health, mental health, and surgical care. In turn, this preliminary research will set us up to apply for a pilot funding to create and deliver a digital intervention/delivery system of medically accurate information about transgender health topics, created in partnership with the transgender and non-binary population. As such, this research has potential to positively impact the physical and mental health of the broad transgender and nonbinary population.