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Barriers to well-being for Aboriginal gender-diverse people: results from the Trans PULSE Project in Ontario, Canada

Ayden I. Scheim (PhD Student, based at Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, The University of Western Ontario, London, Canada)
Randy Jackson (PhD Candidate, based at School of Social Work, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada)
Liz James (Liz James is with the Trans PULSE Project, based in Vancouver, Canada)
T. Sharp Dopler (Regional Outreach/Support Services Worker, at Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy, Ottawa, Canada)
Jake Pyne (PhD Student, based at School of Social Work, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada)
Greta R. Bauer (Associate Professor, based at Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, The University of Western Ontario, London, Canada)

Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care

ISSN: 1757-0980

Article publication date: 29 November 2013

Abstract

Purpose

Despite health inequities experienced by Aboriginal and transgender (trans) communities, little research has explored the well-being of Aboriginal trans (gender-diverse) people. This paper aims to describe barriers to well-being in a sample of Aboriginal gender-diverse people in Ontario, Canada.

Design/methodology/approach

In 2009-2010, 433 trans people in Canada's most populous province participated in a multi-mode health survey. In all, 32 participants identified as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit (Aboriginal); unweighted frequencies were calculated to describe their characteristics.

Findings

Participants expressed diverse gender identities; 44 per cent identified with the pan-Aboriginal term two-spirit. High levels of poverty (47 per cent), homelessness or underhousing (34 per cent), and ever having to move due to being trans (67 per cent) were reported. In all, 61 per cent reported at least one past-year unmet health care need. Most participants had experienced violence due to being trans (73 per cent) and had ever seriously considered suicide (76 per cent). One-fifth had been incarcerated while presenting in their felt gender. Aboriginal spirituality was practiced by 44 per cent, and 19 per cent had seen an Aboriginal Elder for mental health support.

Research limitations/implications

Action is needed to address the social determinants of health among Aboriginal gender-diverse people. Using principles of self-determination, there is a need to increase access to health and community supports, including integration of traditional culture and healing practices. Larger study samples and qualitative research are required.

Originality/value

These first published data regarding the health of Aboriginal gender-diverse Ontarians illustrate both their heterogeneity and all-too-common experiences of individual and systemic discrimination, and barriers to care. Results highlight potential impacts of colonialism and social exclusion, and suggest priorities for ameliorative action.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

© Ayden I. Scheim, Randy Jackson, Liz James, T. Sharp Dopler, Jake Pyne, Greta R. Bauer. Published by Emerald Group Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 3.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial & non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/3.0/legalcode

Citation

I. Scheim, A., Jackson, R., James, L., Sharp Dopler, T., Pyne, J. and R. Bauer, G. (2013), "Barriers to well-being for Aboriginal gender-diverse people: results from the Trans PULSE Project in Ontario, Canada", Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 108-120. https://doi.org/10.1108/EIHSC-08-2013-0010

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Authors