Introducing the Health and Healthcare in Gender Diverse Communities Collection

We are delighted to announce our Collection on Health and Healthcare in Gender Diverse Communities, curated by our Guest Editors Dr. Asa Radix, Dr. Ayden Scheim, and Dr. Jae Sevelius. The collection includes a diverse group of articles investigating influences on mental and physical health, experiences accessing healthcare and engaging with the healthcare system, and the impacts of violence, discrimination, and stigma on health and wellbeing within gender diverse communities around the world. Additional articles will be added to the Collection as they become available, so be sure to keep checking back for the newest research.

Here, Drs. Sevelius and Scheim share their thoughts on this crucial area of research.

What recent developments or emerging trends in the field do you find most interesting or exciting?

JS: It is absolutely critical that we continue to advance the science around transgender children and youth. This science is imperative to inform advocacy for policies that support our young people and provide access to life-saving treatment, especially in this era of proposed treatment bans and myths around ‘desistance’. Further, learning more about how best to support trans people in their youth can help to prevent some of the persistent mental and physical health disparities we see among trans adults.

AS: I’m excited by the changing scientific and organizational leadership in the field, with trans health research increasingly led by trans people. This is not simply a matter of representation for its own sake — I think community knowledge and relationships can be leveraged to improve the rigour, relevance, and reach of our research. I also see growing topical and regional diversity in trans health research. Like cisgender people, trans people live everywhere in the world, grow older, and form families, and so improving the health of trans populations requires a holistic and global approach.

From your perspective, what are the biggest challenges faced by researchers working with and within gender diverse communities? Do you have any advice for effectively overcoming these challenges?

JS: As an intervention scientist working in close collaboration with trans communities, some of the biggest challenges are structural. The priorities of the funders drive the science, and the funding mechanisms and timelines often do not account for the incredible investment of time and funds required to get community-engaged science right. To be successful and relevant, our intervention research needs to be led by trans people themselves. Due to social marginalization, this work is the first formal job many of the trans people I work with have had, which means there is significant training and support required to ensure our teams are successful and thriving professionally.

AS: Although trans health research increasingly involves trans people in leadership roles, those trans people are too often those who (like me) benefit from structural racism and discrimination. It is vital that researchers attend to differences in power and life experience within trans and gender diverse communities. Ideally, they would use community-based participatory research approaches to forge research partnerships that build power and resources of trans individuals and organizations from marginalized backgrounds.

Why is open access publication important in this field?

JS: Among the many reasons open access is important, one tremendous benefit is ensuring that health care providers who are treating trans patients have access to the most current and relevant science, enabling them to make more informed treatment decisions. Further, because taxpayers fund the majority of our research, they should have free access to the results of our work.

AS: As anyone plugged into trans Twitter can tell you, trans advocates actively engage with research being published on trans health and use that research in their advocacy, from educating families to pursuing legal challenges. Among the many reasons for OA, making research findings accessible for community advocates is a key priority for me.

About the Guest Editors:

Asa Radix is the Senior Director of Research and Education at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center and a Clinical Associate Professor and the NYU  Grossman School of Medicine.

Ayden Scheim is an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Drexel University.

Jae Sevelius is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, Co-Director of the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS), Co-Director of the CAPS Developmental Core, and PI and co-founder of the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health.

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Introducing the Health and Healthcare in Gender Diverse Communities Call for Papers

Health inequity has wide ranging impacts on health status and carries significant social and economic costs for individuals and communities. While there has been increasing attention to this issue and its unique effects on LGBT+ populations, transgender and gender diverse people remain uniquely affected. Relatively little research has focused on the healthcare needs and outcomes specific to these communities and the existing literature has tended toward a narrow focus on sexual and reproductive health, often including small and geographically limited participant samples and cross-sectional or retrospective study designs. 

The experience of a gender diverse identity can have a variety of multifaceted influences on physical, mental, and social health as well as complex interactions with other aspects of identity and demographics. Transgender and gender diverse individuals also face an array of challenges in accessing effective and affirming healthcare including disparities in treatment and outcomes as well as barriers to care. Researchers and policymakers cannot understand the varied needs within these communities without first understanding the experiences of the people within these communities and the challenges they face. 

Healthcare research focusing on gender diverse and trans participants has historically faced unique challenges, including a socioeconomically diverse population typically present in numbers insufficient for statistically rigorous sampling and analysis at a single center, unclear patient-oriented outcomes, inconsistent grouping and definitions, inappropriately gendered laboratory reference ranges, variability in cultural competence and training across providers, and many more. However, the visibility of these communities and their needs has grown, facilitating the emergence of methodologically rigorous research and high quality datasets focusing on this underserved population and revealing new opportunities for community engagement. 

PLOS ONE recently launched a call for papers on Health and Health Care in Gender Diverse Communities with the goal of encouraging and emphasizing research addressing prior challenges associated with sampling, study design, and cultural competence, and overcoming previous limitations. This is an exciting time for health-related research focused on trans and gender diverse communities, as collaborative, large scale, longitudinal, and multi-site data inclusive of gender diversity is finally being collected and made available, often for the first time. The United States Center for Disease Control began including questions related to sexual and gender minority-related experiences in national health surveys in 2014, and The National Center for Transgender Equality has released the the data from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, the largest survey ever devoted to the lives and experiences of transgender people in the United States, including over 27,000 participants. Also in the U.S. and with the support of a national network of community engagement efforts, the PRIDE study is collecting large scale nationwide longitudinal cohort data over at least 10 years to investigate the long term health of Americans identifying as LGBTQ+. Research from this effort focused on gender minorities is already beginning to become available, including several studies published in PLOS ONE (1, 2, 3) and this exciting work is ongoing. The largest study of transgender people in the world is underway under the European Network for the Investigation of Gender Incongruence, and the network has steadily expanded since its launch in 2010. Productive opportunities for research in this and related areas can only grow and diversify as awareness of gender diversity increases and sigma continues to recede worldwide. 

This call for papers represents an opportunity to collect and showcase the cutting edge research into health and gender diversity now emerging and to make this critically important work available globally and without restriction to anyone who may benefit through PLOS ONE’s open access mission. We welcome submissions to the call through September 24th 2020, and more information is available here.


  1. Lunn MR, Capriotti MR, Flentje A, Bibbins-Domingo K, Pletcher MJ, Triano AJ, et al. (2019) Using mobile technology to engage sexual and gender minorities in clinical research. PLoS ONE 14(5): e0216282.
  2. Flentje A, Barger BT, Capriotti MR, Lubensky ME, Tierney M, Obedin-Maliver J, et al. (2020) Screening gender minority people for harmful alcohol use. PLoS ONE 15(4): e0231022.
  3. Moseson H, Lunn MR, Katz A, Fix L, Durden M, Stoeffler A, et al. (2020) Development of an affirming and customizable electronic survey of sexual and reproductive health experiences for transgender and gender nonbinary people. PLoS ONE 15(5): e0232154.

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