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4 Tech realities pop culture needs to catch up on

When portrayed by pop culture, adaption of tech by various generations tend to be unrealistic. Here are six more examples that all writers for TV shows, movies, and particularly advertising need to catch up on…

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For anyone reading this, it is safe to assume you are – at least – a digital immigrant. Our generation is the first to truly grow up around technology; the first children of the digital age, and all the advancements it has been able to offer to society.

However, society can sometimes be a little slow to catch up, at least on a pop culture level. For example, older people – those over the age of 55 – are over characterized as being clueless around technology, relying on their children to help them navigate the new digital world.

In reality, those over the age of 55 are also digital immigrants. They were in their early 40s when the internet moved from a niche academic project to a way of changing how we interact with the world forever. Older people aren’t technologically illiterate; just look at the age demographics for Facebook on www.statista.com if you want that confirmed.

The above example is far from the only way that pop culture has misjudged the tech revolution and how it has changed the way we see and interact with the world. Below are six more examples that all writers for TV shows, movies, and particularly advertising need to catch up on…

‘ONLINE DATING IS CREEPY!’

TV shows have been spinning stories about how creepy online dating is for over a decade now. The premise is always the same: a character we care about goes on an online date. The date is either incredibly creepy, or somehow unhinged. The idea that is pushed as a result is almost offensive: online dating is weird. Proper people meet their mate in the real world. Get offline and start socializing.

The idea of socializing to meet a potential romantic partner is fine, but here’s the thing pop culture writers seem to have ignored: online dating is becoming the norm. 15 years ago, sure, most of society was extremely sceptical about online dating, furthered by the perception that anyone who is keen on the internet is likely to be an overweight manchild who lives in their parents’ basement.

Now, times have changed. Online dating has become a standard facet of life and it can be incredibly successful. Most of us know at least one couple who met online or via a dating app– it’s not remotely weird anymore. Yet for some reason, pop culture has yet to update to this reality, and online dating is still seen as outright bizarre in a plethora of TV shows and movies– which is all the more odd when you consider some of the writers of these TV shows and movies will have used online dating. It’s a trope that really, really needs to go.

‘TECHNOLOGY IS TO BE FEARED!’

There have been countless TV shows, movies, and video games that have sought to teach a lesson: technology is a bad thing. Technology is forcing humans to lose touch with their humanity. Technology will, ultimately, be the doom of the human race.

This is such a bizarre story to tell, yet for some reason, it keeps being told. Are there risks to technology? Of course– there are numerous tech developments that may prove problematic in years to come, and even the most devout tech fan needs to accept that.

However, technology is not inherently dangerous, troubling, or a cause for huge concern. The next time a TV show or movie tries to teach this lesson, then it’s worth remembering some of the things that technology has allowed us to achieve:

  • Medicine has never been safer due to technology. From robot surgeons that never tire to diagnostic exams that the doctors of 50 years ago could only have dreamed of, technology has changed human health for the better.
  • Technology has allowed processes and construction to be more refined than ever before. From companies like www.LaserLight.com making advances in micro-machining through to the incredible increase in data storage capabilities, technological advances have allowed us to make everything smaller, more compact, more easily managed.
  • Technology has changed the way that we interact with people for the better. 20 years ago, if your dearest relatives moved to Canada, then you’d probably lose touch with them almost entirely. Save for a Christmas card and a couple of extortionately-expensive phone calls, they would largely disappear from your frame of reference. Nowadays, if your family moves to Canada, that’s not really a problem – you’ll still be able to follow their everyday lives on social media, talk to them on Skype, and swap pictures and stories within 10 minutes of an important event occurring. The connectivity that we are able to enjoy as a result cannot be underestimated.

So while there are potential threats to heed warnings of when it comes to tech, there’s no need for such a heavy-handed approach to dealing with technology. A little more insight into how tech has improved lives would be nice.

#3 – ONLY ‘WEIRD’ PEOPLE ARE INTERESTED IN THE INTERNET

We’re all interested in the internet these days– it’s impossible not to be. The internet is the source of so much of our lives. It’s how we connect with friends and family; it’s how we find jobs; how we undertake education; it’s even how we can engage in activism by writing blogs and publishing opinion pieces. The internet has allowed voices to be heard that would have otherwise remained silent…

… which is why it’s so mystifying that being interested in, and vociferously using, the internet is still seen as something only “weird” people engage in.

Not sure you’re convinced that such a reductive, obviously-incorrect portrait of internet users is still in existence? Enter Exhibit A, a music video:

This is Lily Allen’s “URL Bad Man”, which depicts a respected music journalist as… a loser who sits in his mum’s house ranting on the internet (you can hear the journalist’s side of the story here, if you’re interested). This video is three years old now, but it was still ridiculous three years ago; nothing has changed about internet habits and user interactions in the past three years. It’s all the more bizarre, given Allen’s age, that she would dismiss internet users, writers, and content producers as bitter, lonely, and miserable.

It’s an attitude that persists. People who like using the internet, engaging on message boards, playing games online– they’re losers. TV shows and movies even take this trope further by insisting that these people need to “learn to live” and “stop being obsessed with their screens”– forgetting that we’re all only obsessed by our screens because our screens hold our lives now. It’s akin to mocking someone for using a paper diary 20 years ago.

#4 – HACKING. PERIOD.

Hacking, as depicted in TV shows and movies, is almost entirely nonsense. The visual shown is usually something along the lines of:

  • The “hacker” pulls up a screen on a computer
  • The screen is usually black, with green text (for some reason)
  • They begin typing something at a ridiculously fast pace
  • They then gain access to anything and everything they may want to see on another person’s computer.

Hacking… doesn’t work like that. It’s time-consuming, error-prone, and often doesn’t elicit anything in the way of material at all. Hacking definitely doesn’t involve speed-typing a string of code into a mysterious screen; nor does it only take a few seconds to gain absolute access to sensitive files.

In some ways, it’s easy to see why TV shows and movies depict hacking in this way. Firstly, it’s mystifying; as the “hacking” isn’t actually remotely close to what hacking constitutes, the TV show/movie cannot be blamed if someone tries to copy it. Secondly, most writers don’t truly understand what goes into hacking anyway, and as hacking is primarily used as a plot device, it’s not worth their time and effort to find out more.

While it’s easy to understand why hacking looks so terrible on TV shows and movies, it is nevertheless somewhat disconcerting that hacking is always portrayed as a sure thing. The character wants information and is then able to hack their way to this information. This kind of scenario doesn’t help with the paranoia many people fear about technology in general, so the occasional depiction of a failed hacking attempt wouldn’t go amiss.

IN CONCLUSION

The reason many of these tropes exist in pop culture is, frankly, because they are an accepted part of pop culture. While we may now be well ensconced in the digital age, many of us carry over the beliefs and ideas that formed our childhood; TV show writers, advertising executives, and movie producers are much the same. We might know that these portrayals are misleading or false, but we’re used to them, so they become a staple.

In the future, and particularly as Generation Z become content creators, we may see these tropes finally begin to die out– but for now, it looks like we’re stuck tutting every time we see them.

Lifestyle & Culture

Three crucial steps for a thriving business

If your business is surviving, but not thriving, take these three crucial steps to get the most out of your company.

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If you’re a business owner, you may think that simply surviving the COVID-19 crisis, and the financial impacts it has had, is enough. Think again.

If your business is surviving, but not thriving, take these three crucial steps to get the most out of your company. 

IMAGE SOURCE: PEXELS.COM

Provide excellent customer service

While you likely set out to solve a problem that a customer was facing or provide a product that someone was in search of, it may have been lost somewhere along the road. It’s time to remember that. So, instead of just offering middling service at best, make sure your customer service is optimal.

Go the extra mile when you can; if a customer has a question that you don’t have the direct answer to, point them to an expert that might. Is your customer asking for an upgrade, a product, or something that you don’t offer yet but might? Don’t forget to reach out directly to them as soon as you do have it available, whether that means salted chocolate chip cookies if you own a bakery, or a new way to track receipts if you offer a SaaS solution to finances.

Offer the type of customer service that you want when you frequent a business. Each customer you interact with has their own unique customer experience, so remember that when providing them your solution or product. 

Do not cut prices even during a crisis

Don’t underestimate your company’s worth. Many start-up businesses under value their product, solution, or service. When this happens, they don’t charge enough. And do you know what happens? People don’t think they’re getting a great deal when they work with you. They just expect that you are providing them the price that you see necessary to charge them.  Investigate your pricing strategy and make sure it aligns with your product. 

There is evidence that shows when two identical services are offered at different prices, people will often go with the higher price. Why? They simply assume it’s better. If your product is good, do not cut prices, offer coupons, or boast that you’re the cheapest in the area. Not only are you attracting the wrong customers by doing this, but you’re also likely to lose customers when you raise prices that weer previously unsustainable. 

IMAGE SOURCE: PEXELS.COM

Stop overpromising and under-delivering

If a car mechanic tells you that they can fix your car by that evening, you expect it to be finished by the end of the day, right? When you go to pick it up, only to find that it actually won’t be done for three more days, you’re probably more than a little miffed. What would happen though if the mechanic initially told you they’d let you know a timeframe, but expected it to be finished in about three days, and actually had it done in two? You’d think, “Wow, that was fast!”

Instead of overpromising and under-delivering, be honest with your customers. If you are planning to have an update for your app by the end of the month, be realistic. Don’t promise them more than you can actually deliver on in the allotted amount of time, and your customers will learn to trust you. 

Growing your business takes work

Growing a business isn’t all rainbows and cupcakes. It takes years of hard work and dedication, but if you want your company to thrive, not just survive, it’s time to kick it up a notch. 

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Lifestyle & Culture

Surviving COVID-19: 5 Strategies hotels should implement ASAP

Even when the pandemic ends, the practice of social distancing, fear of large crowds, and quarantining may continue to linger for months or even years. This means that business owners need to keep up with this drastic shift in consumer behavior.

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The coronavirus outbreak that started in Wuhan, China has spread like wildfire throughout the world. With the world on hold, global travel has been put to a stop, causing a huge blow to the hospitality industry, particularly hotels. Travel bans mean less tourists, and less tourists mean lesser hotel guests.  

Even when it ends, the practice of social distancing, fear of large crowds, and quarantining may continue to linger for months or even years. This means that business owners need to keep up with this drastic shift in consumer behavior. Keep in mind that many of your potential guests may develop a lasting stigma against crowded places, including hotel lobbies, busy restaurants, schools, offices, and more. 

According to the STR and Tourism Economics, the hotel industry is projected to suffer a 50.6% decline in revenue per available room (RevPAR) in 2020 due to COVID-19. In another research from CBRE, since the outbreak began in January 2020, it will take approximately 6-10 months for hotel demand to increase and 12 to 16 months for average daily rate (ADR) and RevPAR to gain footing. 

With that said, hoteliers need to take proactive measures to prepare for recovery once this dies down. Here are five strategies hotels should implement to survive the effects of COVID-19. 

1. Inform Your Customers of Critical COVID-19 Information

Be sure your customers know of the changes in hotel operations due to COVID-19. Inform them whether your hotel is open, as well as cancellation policies for reservations made before the outbreak. Also, don’t forget to let them know that you have a prevention plan in place. 

You can connect with your customers via website, social media, emails, and local listings. Your website and social media platforms should contain the following necessary information in which to put your customers at ease:

  • Cancellation Policy – the best route is to waive cancellation fees or allow guests to rebook.
  • Address Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19
  • Comprehensive Prevention Plan
  • How Your Hotel is Helping the Community
  • Contact Information

2. Recognize the Efforts of Front liners

Doctors, nurses, hospital staff, security guards, cashiers, garbage collectors, medical technicians – these are just some of the people who work in the frontlines to fight the war against COVID-19. Recognizing their efforts is the least we can do to repay their service. 

For hoteliers, you might consider offering discounted rates for front-liners and first responders. Some hotels are now offering complimentary rooms for healthcare professionals with the help of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Hospitality for Hope. 

If you want to give a little something to the first responders, you can donate food from your restaurant to local hospitals, offer more affordable rates, offer complimentary rooms, or donate to relief and recovery funds. 

3. Connect with Existing and Potential Guests on Social Media

Since everyone is quarantining, the use of social media has drastically increased over the past few weeks. It’s a great opportunity for business owners, especially hoteliers, to stay connected with your guests and engage with them through posting travel and destination content. 

You can ask previous hotel guests to share a picture from their past stay, share photos of your hotels, post pictures of your area, share virtual tours of tourist spots, or ask your clients to share their favorite touristy activity in your city. 

If your hotel has a gym, you can post at-home workout videos. You can create videos or instructional guides to keep your guests fit while they’re confined to their home. These are just some of the ways to stay connected amid a global pandemic. 

4. Try Upselling

As travel and dine-in demands are being put on hold, every hotelier’s strategy should include looking for strategies to build additional revenue. For it to be effective, you need to figure out what your customers need and want. 

You can encourage guests to book in advance by offering them premium rooms at a discount. You can also offer longer stays for a lower price. For example, book a four-night stay and get the fifth at 50% off. 

This inspires business travelers to extend their stay and encourages potential guests to enjoy a relaxing stay post-pandemic. If your hotel has a dining area or a wellness spa, you can maximize your revenue by offering gift cards. For your restaurant, you can offer delivery or pickup orders. 

5. Personalize Your Marketing Campaigns

Pandemic or no pandemic, personalizing your marketing campaigns is vital to your success. By doing this, your customers will feel important. Whether you want to reach out to business travelers or encourage advance bookings, it always helps to send personalized messages to potential guests. 

With so much on your plate, it can be tempting to generate an automated marketing message. However, you can use this time to get to know your audience and connect with them. You can also try using campaign management software to schedule posts in advance, which will keep your messages aligned. 

Combat the Effects of COVID-19 with These Hotel Financing Options

The effects of COVID-19 in the hotel industry are inevitable. However, as the saying goes: “Those who fail to plan – plan to fail.” 

If you need financial assistance, there are different hotel financing options you can choose from. Taking out a loan may seem counterintuitive, but fortunately there are lending companies that offer flexible repayment terms. 

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Technology

Know thy history; revisit the first 10 years of San Francisco’s Pride

Even Pride gatherings are getting confused nowadays – e.g. Is it still to protest, or (even if the organizers claim it’s a “protest”) is it really just one big party? A revisit to Pride’s history – at least of San Francisco’s, in the US – has opened to help every-all see how everything was in the early days.

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Third World Gay Caucus contingent, San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade, 1977; photograph by Marie Ueda, Marie Ueda Collection (2006-12), GLBT Historical Society.

Even Pride gatherings are getting confused nowadays – e.g. Is it still to protest, or (even if the organizers claim it’s a “protest”) is it really just one big party? Should events highlight the not-that-pretty/sexy yet still ongoing struggles, or just focus on the glamour (and while at it, earn organizers big bucks)? And part of this confusion stems from the lack of awareness, if not appreciation of Pride’s history.

A revisit to Pride’s history – at least of San Francisco’s, in the US – has opened to help every-all see how everything was in the early days.

Organized by the GLBT Historical Society, with the support of San Francisco Pride, “Labor of Love: The Birth of San Francisco Pride, 1970–1980” showcases how San Francisco’s LGBTQIA community in the 1970s forged the annual celebration that would come to be known as the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Parade.

On June 27, 1970, a small group marched down Polk Street, and the following day staged a “gay-in” picnic in Golden Gate Park. Over the course of the decade, Pride became an annual San Francisco event, growing by leaps and bounds. Initially referred to as Christopher Street West — to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riot on that street in New York City — and then as Gay Freedom Day, Pride drew some 250,000 participants and spectators in 1980. 

“Labor of Love” revisits the first 10 years of San Francisco Pride using historic photographs, ephemera, artifacts, and film and sound recordings from the archives of the GLBT Historical Society and from community members. The exhibition explores the goals, the controversies, the hard work, the desires and the sometimes-competing spirits of struggle and celebration that laid the foundation for one of the city’s best-known public festivals. 

The exhibition is co-curated by Gerard Koskovich, a public historian and rare book dealer; Don Romesburg, professor of gender and women’s studies at Sonoma State University; and Amy Sueyoshi, dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. They emphasize that Pride has traditionally deployed both frivolity and protest to promote a positive cultural shift in how society views LGBTQ people. 

The exhibition is organized around four themes.

“Why Pride?” considers how organizers and community members explained the purpose of the annual gathering.

“The Work of Pride” explores the ever-increasing commitment to planning, fundraising, volunteer support and governance that the event required.

“Pride Fights” grapples with the debates over what Pride should be, who should be included, who should make the decisions and how they should be made.

Finally, “Big Gay Family” highlights how the creation of San Francisco Pride brought diverse people into a collective, yet often contested kinship. 

POSTER 1: “Christopher Street Liberation Day Gay-In,” offset flyer, 1970; Charles Thorpe Papers (1987-02), GLBT Historical Society.
POSTER 2: San Francisco Gay Pride program, 1972; Ephemera Collection, GLBT Historical Society.

The interactive final section of the show, “Pride: From Past to Future,” invites visitors to reflect on the history, then look ahead by submitting their responses to two questions: “How will the future of Pride be shaped? How should it be shaped?” The answers will be posted in the online gallery to spark an ongoing dialog about the heritage of Pride.

“Labor of Love” will also be installed as a physical exhibition at the GLBT Historical Society Museum at 4127 18th Street in San Francisco’s Castro district at a future date.

For more information, visit the GLBT Historical Society website at www.glbthistory.org.

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Lifestyle & Culture

Skin pigmentations: Types and treatment options

You should seek medical advice from experts to manage hyperpigmentation conditions. It is advisable to seek skin protective measures for a healthy and happy lifestyle.

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Skin pigmentation is a health disorder that affects the normal appearance of your skin. It is easily noticeable because of the change in color in the area with the disorder. The melanin gives your skin its color. Hyperpigmentation occurs when the color pigment cells of the melanin get damaged or when the cells are unhealthy.

In this article, we take a quick review of some of the hyperpigmentation conditions, treatment options, among other related issues.

Let’s begin…

Types of skin pigmentation

Some skin pigmentation like birthmarks act as beauty spots for some people, while for others it affects their self-esteem or poses health risks.

Birthmarks

Birthmarks are abnormal skin colorations that appear at birth or a few days after birth. Most of the birthmarks are normal while others are cancerous and may pose serious health risks for individuals.

Pigmented birthmarks

Nevus of Ota

They are gray or blue discolorations on the skin which appear on the face or in the eyes. They result from excessive production of melanin on the skin causing discoloration. Many people with the disorder are prone to conditions of skin cancer such as melanoma cancer of the eye, cancer of the central nervous system, and others. They may also cause glaucoma on the individuals.

Treatment:

You can use prescribed bleaching agents for this kind of discoloration, such as laser, hydroquinone, and others.

Hemangiomas

They are birthmarks that appear as growths on the face, arms, trunk, and legs. They are a bunch of tiny blood vessels concentrated on one spot. Some hemangiomas are easily visible on the skin, while others appear bluish since they are deep in the body. The level of severity of this condition depends on if it reduces as your child grows up. Treatment is recommendable to avoid consequential health issues such as bleeding, ulcers, and others.

Treatment:

Use of corticosteroid medication, laser treatment, surgery, use of topical or oral beta-blocker medications. You should first consult an expert on the treatment required to avoid various serious side effects of these treatment methods.

Other pigmented birthmarks include Macular stains, Port-wine stains, and others.

Skin pigmentation disorders

Albinism

Albinism results from a lack of melanin in the skin, hair, or eyes. The condition is inheritable because of the presence of a gene that prevents the production of the pigment melanin.

Treatment:

The condition has no cure. The people with the condition should use sunscreen to prevent them from skin cancer. A visit to an ophthalmologist is recommendable to avoid eye problems.

Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a condition caused by pigment loss. The body’s immune system attacks color pigment cells which cause white patches on the skin. It can cause other health issues such as anemia, diabetes, and others.

Treatment:

There is no cure, but you can get treatments such as the use of topical steroid preparations, topical immunomodulators, excimer laser, and others.

Other pigmentation disorders include; Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, Ashy dermatosis, Melasma, Lentigo Solaris, among others.

You should seek medical advice from experts to manage hyperpigmentation conditions. It is advisable to seek skin protective measures for a healthy and happy lifestyle. Hyperpigmentation may bring about other health issues, hence it is crucial to ensure that your condition gets checked by a health expert.

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Health & Wellness

Covid-19 affects adolescent and young adults sexual and reproductive health

LGBTQ youth have also been impacted. And for some youth whose families are less accepting, being quarantined for months can lead to significant tensions and confidentiality concerns, which could make LGBTQ youth more isolated.

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Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography from Unsplash.com

Social distancing and limited access to contraceptive and abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Rutgers University. The researchers address how these challenges, as well as peer and romantic relationships, are being navigated.

The finding are published in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

Huge changes for adolescents and young adults, include school closures, potentially much more time with family, the interruption of the normal trajectory toward increased independence and, for many, very limited or no physical proximity to sexual and romantic partners.

Even though the pandemic may lead to less opportunities for sex for some young people, disruptions in access to contraception and abortion can be extremely problematic for adolescents and young adults who are still able to be physically close to their partners during the pandemic, note the authors. “The good news is that some services, including obtaining many forms of contraception and receiving testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases can be handled through telemedicine,” said Leslie Kantor, a professor and chair of the Rutgers Department of Urban Global Public Health. “If telemedicine remains as widely available as it has been during the coronavirus pandemic, access to sexual and reproductive health care may actually improve for young people.” However, Kantor and colleagues say that lack of privacy and confidentiality, which many adolescents and young adults are experiencing while living at home with family, can also hinder the ability to get necessary sexual and reproductive healthcare.

In terms of testing for sexually transmitted infections or seeking abortion care, there is not a lot of data specifically on young people. But many states have tried to restrict abortion access by arguing it is not an essential service despite the fact that abortion clearly is essential and needs to be timely. There also have been very concerning declines in vaccinations for all children older than age 2 and the use of the HPV vaccine, which prevents cancer-causing infections and pre-cancers, has plummeted.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Unsplash.com

LGBTQ youth have also been impacted, although fortunately, many LGBTQ centers quickly moved support groups and other services online. And for some youth whose families are less accepting, being quarantined for months can lead to significant tensions and confidentiality concerns, which could make LGBTQ youth more isolated.

While social disruption resulting from the pandemic affects young adults’ sense of health and well-being, one positive aspect is that young adults are digital natives familiar with online platforms and social media. “Young people are supposed to be gaining independence at this time in life, so for those who have had to return home after a period of being away, maintaining relationships with friends and romantic partners at a distance may be particularly challenging. Our view that their constant digital connection was negative is now a positive for them at this time,” said David Bell, MD, MPH, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health associate professor of Population and Family Health and Pediatrics.

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Health & Wellness

Study finds gender-affirming health care good on paper; still lacking in practice

Fact: Many trans women, especially those in rural areas, couldn’t find a doctor trained to provide those hormones, and the doctors they could access did not know where to refer them for more specialized care.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Unsplash.com

Good in reports; shitty in actual practice.

This is the state of gender-affirming policies and health care for transgender women, with many of pro-LGBTQIA polices actually still not fully realized in practice, according to a study from Oregon State University found.

In the US, the Supreme Court recently barred employment discrimination against LGBTQIA people, which brings national law more in line with laws that have been in place in various states for several years.

Oregon, for instance, has the Oregon Equality Act of 2008 that protects trans people against employment and housing discrimination, while the expansion of Medicaid in 2015 expanded health coverage to include gender-affirming care like hormone-replacement therapy and transition surgery.

However – and this is worth stressing – those legal protections are not enough to address social determinants of health such as financial status and access to housing, or the everyday discrimination still felt by many trans women in Oregon, said Jonathan Garcia, a researcher ins the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences said. The cumulative effect of those subtler forms of discrimination takes a significant toll on trans women.

“In spite of ranking so highly in terms of Oregon’s support for gender-affirming care, the impact of social discrimination is so great that it challenges policy implementation and the lived experience of people,” Garcia said. “This is how discrimination sort of gets in between the cracks – it plays out in more complicated and indirect ways so that you can’t really weed it out.”

Garcia’s study, published in the Transgender Health journal, gathered detailed interviews with 25 trans women in Oregon, ages 18 to 39. Of those 25, six had been homeless at some point in the 12 months prior and only 20% had full-time employment, though all had some form of health insurance.

According to the study’s findings, one of the biggest challenges facing trans women is navigating the health care system. At least in Oregon, though the law requires insurance to cover hormone-replacement therapy, many trans women, especially those in rural areas, couldn’t find a doctor trained to provide those hormones, and the doctors they could access did not know where to refer them for more specialized care.

In other cases, trans women had to undergo a psychological evaluation to obtain a diagnosis of gender dysphoria – the distress people feel when the sex they’re assigned at birth doesn’t match the gender with which they identify – before they could begin to access hormone replacement therapy. This route is much more time-consuming and cost-prohibitive than the “informed consent model,” wherein trans patients can attest that they understand the risks and benefits of pursuing gender-affirming medical treatment, without first having to prove psychological distress. For some study participants, the idea of gender dysphoria made them feel like they had a medical problem and invalidated their lived experience.

“All of that is really, really confusing,” Garcia said. “It requires them to become experts in their rights, in the law, in the availability of these services and where they are offered.”

Most trans women who were able to navigate that system credit their success to their social support network of other trans people. In addition to this informal network, Garcia said, the system needs to have trained and properly compensated health workers in place who can act as navigators, and they need to understand not just health care but the intersections with housing and the legal system that affect people’s access to care.

“We need help with navigating these systems and establishing trust, so that people are actually able to claim and enjoy the rights that they have, so that the rights don’t remain on paper,” he said.

The study was limited in that 21 of 25 participants were white women. Despite numerous efforts to recruit Black and Latinx trans women, Garcia said, they were unable to reach them through participant referrals and community center contacts. He attributed this to their extreme marginalization in queer spaces in Oregon.

“But we can tell that whatever this set of women is experiencing, I expect the experience of trans women of color to be far more challenging,” Garcia said. “Specifically because of structural racism and disenfranchisement from queer networks, which were a critical resource for the women who were able to navigate these systems.”

Garcia’s co-author was Richard Crosby at the University of Kentucky.

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