On Thursday, April 23rd, Project Homeless Connect hosted our first Provider Connect of 2015: Reducing Barriers to Care for the Trans* Community. As 29% of San Franciscans experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ, discussing and learning strategies to reduce these barriers is critical in creating inclusive and comprehensive care. Our panelists shared resources and experience with a full house of providers, advocates and community members.
The panel opened with a discussion about the largest barriers to accessing health for trans* individuals. Fear was cited as a prevalent and pervasive issue when accessing care:
- Fear of changing or clarifying your pronouns
- Fear about disclosing your sexual history
- Fear of how nurses will treat you
- Fear about whether services will be covered by insurance or no
A main takeaway was that services are not seen as trans* competent. Panelists provided clear direction on how best to create an inclusive environment:
- Train staff to use ‘they’ or the individuals name instead of ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’
- Eliminate pronouns for things that don’t need pronouns
- Ensure bathrooms are safe
- Most importantly: take the lead from your clients, provide them with options and do not make assumptions.
While discrimination of the Trans* community is prohibited under the Affordable Care Act, panelists said that trans* folks still experience inequity while accessing services. Specifically, they mentioned being denied medically necessary treatment. Recognizing this inequality is essential to providing compassionate and relevant care. It can be done by providing options for care, and by listening to and advocating for expressed needs and desires for care.
An audience-driven Q&A provided more information from our panelists as well as a wealth of information from our audience. Navigating homelessness presents challenges unique to trans* individuals. Shelters can be exceptionally harsh and unsafe, and the inability to shave and buy gender-appropriate clothing can be deeply triggering for trans* individuals. The panelists and audience acknowledged a significant lack of housing that is trans* inclusive and culturally competent.
In a shelter setting, the panelists emphasized the need for gender neutral restrooms, and gender-fluid spaces where individuals can choose where they want to sleep. Members of the audience were prompted to think holistically about how they care for trans* individuals also experiencing homelessness, and the unique barriers they face when finding employment, entering the shelter system, and accessing medical care.
The panel lasted well past our 7:00 PM end time and many stayed to continue conversation.
We compiled a list of Trans-Inclusive Resources shared by panelists and audience members.
Thank you to our panelists Woods Ervin, Administrative Director for TGI Justice; Daniel Faessler, Tom Steele Fellow for Transgender Law Center; Pastor Megan Rohrer, Executive Director for Welcome: A Communal Response to Poverty; and Mia “Tu Mutch” Satya, Community Organizer for making the evening a success!
Thank you to Bi-Rite Market and Safeway for donating food and refreshments for this event.
Our next Provider Connect event will be Thursday July 23rd, we hope to see you there!