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Transgender Health

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Purpose: Transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) people experience high rates of poverty, joblessness, and homelessness, which drive risk for food insecurity. TGNC people also face discrimination due to transphobia and cissexism, which may contribute to these drivers. Minimal empirical evidence describes experiences with food insecurity among TGNC people. This project investigated food insecurity among TGNC people and how these experiences relate to their physical and mental health.

Methods: Semistructured telephone interviews were conducted with 20 TGNC people residing in the Southeast United States (U.S.), recruited through social media. Interviews were transcribed and qualitatively coded.

Results: TGNC people reported living in extreme poverty. They described how the conservative sociopolitical climate of the Southeast United States made it difficult to find and maintain employment, which was a primary driver of food insecurity. Participants experienced discomfort seeking food assistance due to discrimination and concern for reducing emergency food availability for people in greater need. Stress from unemployment and underemployment, inadequate food supplies, and discrimination was reported as a contributor to poor physical and mental health, and weakened support systems.

Conclusion: Poverty and food insecurity erode TGNC people's physical and mental health and support systems. TGNC people faced substantial barriers—including unemployment and underemployment and multilevel discrimination—which prevented them from affording adequate food. Public health solutions include implementing employment nondiscrimination policy to protect TGNC people in the workplace and building relationships between local food pantries and LGBT organizations to create safer environments for all persons in need of food assistance.


This article was published openly thanks to the University of Tennessee Open Publishing Support Fund.

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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