The spread of the COVID-19 virus will affect everyone in the country in a number of tangible ways, such work closures, shelter in place mandates, and empty toilet paper aisles in grocery stores. Marginalized communities are particularly affected by this pandemic, and the trans community is no different.
Closures and strained health care systems make it difficult for some people to obtain their hormone replacement therapy (HRT). “Many trans women use oral doses of hormones, but everyone’s body responds in a different way to the hormone treatments and some, like myself, are unable to metabolize the hormones effectively via pills,” author Molly Landgraff said. Receiving shots at a hospital puts even more strain on healthcare workers and results in dramatically increased risk for exposure of COVID-19.
The risk of losing insurance coverage has also increased for trans workers because of the virus. Fewer than one-third of employers in the United States provide for transgender inclusive healthcare benefits, and with a multitude of workers forced to stay at home, even transgender workers who have insurance are at risk of losing coverage.
Dr. Alexis Chávez of The Trevor Project, an organization aiming to prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth, pointed to less tangible effects of the pandemic on the trans community. “We know that trans people are less likely to have a primary care provider. They are more likely to delay necessary health care, because of all the negative outcomes that they and their peers have experienced: providers using the wrong names, or genders, or refusing to serve them,” Chávez told Newsweek. “People really need a relationship with their primary health provider; more than any other time, people need that. So it’s something that can be really difficult for trans people.”
Transgender people often grow up with feelings of isolation, so social distancing from supportive communities can bring back this sense of aloneness. The LGBTQ community also has higher rates of HIV and cancer as well as higher rates of smoking, making them more vulnerable to COVID-19.
Sources: Newsweek, 3/23/20; National Center for Transgender Equality, 3/13/20; WBUR, 3/18/20.