Purpose: Gender Minority (GM) individuals experience healthcare access barriers, including financial concerns and discrimination, which influence their health seeking behaviors. This study explores the alternative navigation strategies used by GM individuals to cope with these barriers and access care, both biomedical and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted with GM individuals ( n=18) and healthcare providers ( n=5) identified through purposive sampling. Semistructured guides were used to elicit information about healthcare seeking strategies and experiences. Transcribed interview data were coded, sorted, and analyzed for key themes.
Results: Commonly discussed healthcare access barriers included the following: identifying a competent provider, costs and insurance obstacles, and anticipated discrimination. Respondents expressed a need for gender-affirming care within the biomedical system, and alternative navigation strategies to overcome access barriers, including travelling abroad for surgical procedures, ordering hormones online, and sharing with friends. Respondents discussed CAM principally related to emotional health, preferring CAM to biomedical offerings. Utilizing social networks to access all care modalities was common.
Conclusions: The healthcare-seeking behavior of GM individuals demonstrates great resilience. This population is committed to accessing gender-affirming care regardless of the associated risks of care outside of provider supervision. The healthcare community needs to eliminate access barriers and support harm reduction strategies. CAM for emotional health support and the role of social networks in accessing care resources should be better integrated into care for this population.