Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Transgender people-Medical care, Transgender people-Mental health services, Health services accessibility, Transgender, Trans, Trans*, Gender non-conforming, TGNC, Young adults, Mental health, Comfort, Systems, Medical, Providers, Access, Experience


This study examined diverse trans* and gender non-conforming (TGNC) young adults' perceptions of medical and mental health providers and health care settings; and how TGNC perceptions influence or inhibit their level of comfort and willingness to access preventative and emergency services. The study aimed to extend knowledge and understanding of challenges faced by TGNC individuals and to inform health care providers on how they can become more effective in both their outreach and service provision to TGNC communities. Much of the current literature examining individuals with gender nonconforming identities focus on discrimination, limited access to health care, major health challenges, conflicting surgical outcomes, and mental health concerns (Dovor, 2004; Lev, 2004; Zucker and Bradley, 1995). Other research focuses on pathology, discovery of trans* existence, or its proposed root causes. This view of trans* individuals by society, and clinicians' lack of knowledge and understanding about how trans* individuals experience their identity, negatively impacts clinical intervention. Unlike those studies, this study gives voice to TGNC young adults as they speak out about their needs, feelings and requirements for safe and adequate health care. The current research is significant because it openly advocates for and accepts diverse transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) individuals and communities as equals, and educates medical and mental health providers who likely will work with TGNC young adults during the span of their professional careers. Eleven self-identified TGNC individuals were interviewed using structured interview questions to respond to the study's two research questions: (1) What are the positive and negative experiences within medical and mental health care systems that diverse TGNC youth experience; and (2) What does a supportive environment, setting, and culturally sensitive provider look like for trans* and gender non-conforming young adults? Several significant findings emerged from this study. The data showed that negative experiences with healthcare providers included providers making automatic assumptions about TGNC identities related to gender and sexuality, genitalia, and sexual health care needs. Participants in this study described purposefully withholding personal health information when they did not feel safe and accepted by health care providers. In contrast, the researcher found that positive and comforting experiences with healthcare providers and systems included explicit acknowledgement, validation, support, and open communication with TGNC clients and patients.




v, 62 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2014. Includes bibliographical references (pages 46-48)