This study was conceptualized in October 2018 when the Trump administration leaked a memo about trying to rigidly define sex and gender in ways that would further oppress transgender individuals. There were many attacks on transgender rights under the Trump administration and as trans people, Drs. Zachary DuBois and Jae Puckett felt the need to respond to this. As such, we funneled our need for social change into a study about the effects of sociopolitical context on health and resilience for transgender people. We partnered with researchers and community members across four states to conduct this research. Our hope is that this research can be used to advocate for greater protections and more inclusive policies for transgender individuals in the future and add to our understandings about the impacts of oppression on health and resilience.
Drs. Zachary DuBois and Jae Puckett sought out collaborators for the project in Tennessee, Nebraska, and Montreal. Our faculty collaborators include Drs. Debra Hope, Richard Mocarski, Robert-Paul Juster, and Cindi SturtzSreetharan. There are many team members across these sites as well (see About Us for more information). Initially, we also intended to collect data in Canada, but due to logistical delays and the onset of COVID-19, we changed the research plan. Extensive training was done at each site as we prepared for the launch of the study and we began data collection in the Fall of 2019. To identify participants, we distributed flyers and information to community organizations across our states and used social media for advertising. We wanted to ensure that our sample represented a range of experiences from participants in different parts of each state and that individuals who are often not represented in research had a chance to participate. This intentional recruitment included targeted outreach to enroll participants of color, individuals in rural areas, and people across a wide age span. Our initial data collection with participants entailed a baseline interview with a discussion about what it was like to live in each state as a trans person, recent sociopolitical events participants felt impacted by, and experiences of resilience. These baseline visits also included a more extensive set of surveys and questionnaires and the collection of biomarkers to be able to measure things such as inflammation which may be heightened in response to social oppression. See our Methods page for more details about the specific measures. We finished enrolling participants in March 2020 due to COVID-19. This is when we began the next stage of the study, which included monthly surveys for a year. At the end of the year, we will be conducting another interview with participants via Zoom about how the election impacted them. Finally, we planned to collect biomarkers again to align with the 12th month of the monthly surveys, but due to COVID-19, we will be postponing this data collection until it is safe to do so.
We evaluated sociopolitical context in a few ways. For one, we were interested in how experiences across states varied. Each of the states in our study (Oregon, Michigan, Tennessee, and Nebraska) differs significantly in terms of the sociopolitical context. Oregon has the most protections for trans people in the state and Michigan is a bit of a mixed experience with some protections but not others, whereas Nebraska and Tennessee have minimal protections. In addition, Tennessee’s legislature also often has anti-trans bills up for vote. We will be evaluating differences between states in relation to their levels of supportive legislation and protections for trans people and their political climate more generally. We also designed the study so that we would cross over several major sociopolitical events, such as the 2020 election, federal and state level political shifts, and the inauguration. The study also ended up occurring during major social unrest and violence targeting communities of color. Given that we have been collecting data regularly each month from April 2020 to March 2021, we will be able to show how these sociopolitical events impact health and resilience for trans people.
Our hope is that this study will provide needed insights into the following:
We are currently analyzing data from the first visit of the study and are still collecting the longitudinal data. We will be making summaries available here on the website as they become available, as well as infographics and videos. We intend to design summaries that we hope will be useful in advocacy efforts to improve the sociopolitical contexts for trans people in the future.