County reports on the health of Inland Empire transgender community

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Last week, the Riverside County Department of Public Health released its first-ever report on the transgender community in the county.

The report is a follow-up from the 2014 report from the Riverside University Health System on the health and wellness of the county’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

This report highlighted the deficit of data on the health needs of the local transgender population. In response to this lack of data, RUHS PH agreed to provide technical assistance to transgender community groups for the creation, distribution, analysis and final report of a comprehensive transgender needs assessment survey.

The report is based on surveys of 90 individuals from both Riverside (72 percent) and San Bernardino (28 percent) counties.

The authors define transgender as … “An umbrella term used to describe people who identify with or express a gender different from the gender assigned to them at birth.”

The report’s key findings estimated this population approaches 27,000 individuals in the Inland Empire. While they tended to have a higher education level than the general population, their income level tended to be lower. This partially related to a higher percentage of the respondents being younger than the Inland population and many still students.

More than 90 percent had some form of health insurance. But many felt it was difficult finding a physician or mental health professional who had sufficient knowledge or experience with issues that concern this community.

Their mental and emotional profiles were perilous. More than half had experienced some form of physical or emotional abuse from a partner or someone else close to them. This included verbal abuse at work, or being bullied or harassed while students. A fifth of the respondents had been “kicked out of their family home.”

“Perceptions of discrimination and whether one can access quality health services have been shown to not only affect whether and how individuals seek medical care and interact with medical professionals, but affect health outcomes as well,” wrote the report’s authors.

The survey respondents considered mental health and general health services as the two most important needs.

Nearly 40 percent reported employment discrimination, such as harassment, denial of promotions or being fired.

Nearly two-thirds had reported having depression or an anxiety disorder. And three-quarters of the interviewed “indicated that they had seriously considered committing suicide.”

The report concluded with this recommendation: “This report can be used by local agencies seeking funding and as a tool for health care organizations to assist them in understanding how they can be a resource for this underserved population.”

The survey was open from May 1, 2015, to Aug. 1, 2015. The survey contained 78 questions over 10 subject areas covering demographics, self‐identity, housing, transportation, discrimination and bias, physical and emotional health, health care access, tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, school, police and the justice system, intimate partner violence, available services and social support.

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