Experiences of Transgender and Gender Expansive Physicians

Author Department

Emergency Medicine

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Importance: Although LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other sexual and gender minority) physicians experience bias in the workplace, there is a paucity of data on the experiences of physicians who identify specifically as transgender and/or gender expansive (TGE; gender expansive is an umbrella term encompassing individuals and gender identities that may exist beyond the binary framework [eg, may include nonbinary, genderqueer, and agender individuals]).

Objectives: To explore the professional experiences of TGE physicians, identify barriers to inclusion, and highlight stakeholder-derived strategies that promote an inclusive workplace.

Design, setting, and participants: This qualitative study informed by semistructured interviews was conducted among 24 TGE physicians in the US from April 1 to December 31, 2021. The sample of TGE physicians was recruited using convenience and snowball sampling. Interviews were recorded and transcribed. Using thematic analysis, at least 2 members of the research team performed blinded coding of each transcript, in an iterative process.

Main outcomes and measures: Data collection and thematic analysis examining themes of physicians' experiences.

Results: Among 24 physicians (mean [SD] age, 39 [1.4] years) interviewed, 8 (33%) self-identified as transgender women, 7 (29%) as transgender men, 4 (17%) as nonbinary, 3 (13%) as transgender and nonbinary, and 2 (8%) as genderqueer. Prominent themes of the interviews included emotional distress as a result of transphobia, dominance of a rigid binary gender paradigm, and structural and institutional factors that are associated with psychological and physical safety and feelings of isolation as a TGE physician. Clear steps of affirmation were identified that could mitigate the emotional stressors, including signs of safety, active allyship, and mentorship by other TGE physicians.

Conclusions and relevance: In this qualitative study, TGE physicians reported facing both overt and subtle biases associated with their identity and gender presentation. Participants also noted several interpersonal and structural factors that mitigate the effect of these biases.